Slovak police detain Italians in hunt for journalist's killer

Slovakia police detain Italians named in murdered journalist's last report

Kuciak's last story for Aktuality, on February 9, looked at transactions by firms linked to businessman Marian Kocner and connected to a Bratislava luxury apartment complex that became the center of a political scandal a year ago.

Police conducted raids in eastern Slovakia Thursday on houses linked to alleged members of the Italian mafia, about whom an investigative journalist was writing before he was shot dead last week.

Slovak police commander Tibor Gaspar told reporters that the individuals taken into custody during raids in the eastern town of Michalovice were "persons mentioned" by Kuciak in connection with the "Italian track".

He was echoed by Italy's anti-Mafia prosecutor, Gaetano Paci, who called the journalist's murder a "milestone".

In an angry rebuke of the allegations, Fico showed reporters fat stacks of cash totaling €1 million ($1.2-million) - a reward he has offered for information that could lead to the killers.

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The murders have raised concerns about media freedoms and corruption in Slovakia and sparked a wave of global condemnation.

A protest called by a conservative opposition party drew around a thousand people in the capital Bratislava. Other anti-corruption protests and memorials are planned for Friday across Slovakia and in Prague, London and The Hague.

Fico fought back, accusing his opponents of using the deaths of two young people as "a simple political tool for the opposition, with which it wants to push people into the streets and gain power". The country's President, Andrej Kiska, also joined the rally.

In a message posted on Facebook, Robert Kalinak says he has been in touch with "the most important investigative agencies in the world", having asked for help in the wake of the discovery of the bodies of Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova at their home on Sunday.

"Police are conducting raids in several places", Gaspar said.

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In a joint statement, Maria Troskova, a personal aide to Fico, and Viliam Jasan, chairman of Slovakia's national security council, denounced what they said was an attempt "by some politicians and the media to link our names to these repellent crimes".

Kuciak's killing dismayed European Union officials, coming a few months after Malta's best-known investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was killed by a vehicle bomb.

Pietro Catroppa's father was investigated by police for his ties to the Vadala clan in Bova Marina - his nickname was "Mastro di Giornata", someone responsible for coordinating clan operations and recruitment for the 'Ndrangheta.

Fico is known for his numerous attacks on the media.

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