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Massive Rally Held in Slovakia to Urge PM’s Ouster

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Local Editor

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Slovakia's capital of Bratislava to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico's administration over the recent murder of a journalist probing alleged government corruption.

Protesters in Slovakia

The mass protest rally on Friday was a response to the shooting death of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancée last month.

The journalist covered alleged fraud cases involving politically connected businessmen; and his last but incomplete news story - released by his employer immediately following his murder - alleged that Italian businessmen with suspected mafia links had influence over politicians in Slovakia.

No one has yet been charged in the murder case. This is while one of the businessmen named in the report, who has denied any ties with the Italian mafia, had past dealings with two individuals who were hired at Fico's office. Both have reportedly resigned but deny any links with Kuciak's murder.

Thousands also reportedly marched in other Slovak cities, and hundreds of people also gathered in cities across Europe and elsewhere.

Slovak media outlets described the Friday protest event in the nation's capital as the biggest since 1989.

Some universities let students out early to join the rally. Moreover, one of the country's largest banks, Slovenska Sporitelna of the Austrian group Erste Bank, also announced it would let its employees to leave work early to take part.

Protest organizers demanded a thorough investigation of Kuciak's apparent assassination and a "new trustworthy government."

Prior to the protest event, police and state authorities, including Fico, had warned of potential violence during the protest rallies, but there were no reports of violence or disruptions.

Slovak President Andrej Kiska, who is a political rival of Fico, has expressed concerns that Slovakia is suffering a crisis of trust, calling for an overhaul of the three-party coalition in place in the country or early elections.

The development came as the country's three top officials - Kiska, Fico and Parliament Speaker Andrej Danko - failed in Friday talks to reach consensus on how to best handle the tensions. They put out a joint declaration, nevertheless.

"We want society to remain peaceful and calm and (Slovakia's) top three officials will do their best to prevent the events of recent days from being politically exploited," Danko said, reading from the prepared statement after their meeting.

Fico has accused foreign forces of attempting to destabilize Slovakia and has challenged the president's meetings with American financier George Soros in New York last year without any Foreign Ministry official being present.

Fico has also said he would meet his two coalition partners over the weekend to seek a deal to keep the government intact. He has also resisted demands to dismiss Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, who is a close ally.


Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team