Slovak national police chief Tibor Gaspar will step down next month after major demonstrations calling for his resignation following the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak in February, Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini announced today.
Tens of thousands of people have protested in recent months to call for an independent investigation into the murder in late February of Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend. The 27-year-old journalist had been investigating corruption and links between the Italian mafia and Slovak politicians.
The case sparked the biggest protests in Slovakia since the “Velvet Revolution”, which led to the collapse of communism in November 1989.
Gaspar’s resignation follows that of interior minister Tomas Drucker who had been strongly criticised himself for refusing to fire Gaspar over his handling of the Kuciak murder.
Drucker announced his resignation by saying that he had found no reason to dismiss Tibor Gaspar, while stressing that the issue remained divisive. “I don’t think it would be right for me to directly fire Gaspar (despite) the polarisation he’s causing. If I should increase the polarisation instead of neutralising it, I have no right to remain as minister,” Drucker told reporters.
Drucker only served as interior minister for three weeks, taking over from Robert Kalinak who resigned along with the rest of former Prime Minister Robert Fico’s government shortly after the journalist’s murder.
“I consider the police chief to be a competent professional (…) but I note that he was the target of a huge political pressure.We agreed, in order to ease tensions and media pressure on the police that he will resign by the end of May,” said Pellegrini, who was sworn in on March 22 after Fico’s resignation.
The campaign group “For a Decent Slovakia” who have been calling for an overhaul of Slovakian politics, said of Gaspar’s resignation “All those decent people who care about Slovakia can be proud of themselves. Their pressure has brought about the resignation of Mr Fico, Mr Kalinak, Mr Drucker . . . and [police chief] Gaspar.”
“We believe that the thousands of decent police officers, whose work we value, will have a new police president about whom the public will have no doubts,” they added.