Slovakia's former prime minister faces criminal charges

FILE - In this Sunday, March 6, 2016 file photo, Robert Fico, the then chairman of the SMER-Social Democracy, smiles after a TV debate after Slovakia's general elections in Bratislava, Slovakia. On Wednesday April 20, 2022, Slovakia's police said that former Prime Minister Robert Fico was under investigation, facing unspecified criminal charges. Police said in a brief statement Fico's former Interior Minister Robert Kalinak have been also charged in the same case. Police immediately didn't offer any more details. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File) (Petr David Josek, Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BRATISLAVA – A former prime minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico is facing criminal charges along with his ex-interior minister, police said Wednesday.

Police didn't provide any other details. The two men have been charged with creating a criminal group, their lawyer, David Lindtner, said.

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Fico denied any wrongdoing.

“It's a clear political revenge,” Fico said, adding that the case against him and his former interior minister, Robert Kalinak, was designed “to liquidate the political opposition.”

Fico is currently a lawmaker for his leftist opposition Smer-Social Democracy party. Police so far haven’t asked parliament to waive immunity rules and allow his detention.

Kalinak currently works as a lawyer.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said he hoped the decision to charge Fico and Kalinak was supported by evidence. He said that it was an autonomous decision by law enforcement authorities.

The current four-party coalition government made the fight against corruption a key policy issue. Since it took power after the 2020 general election, a number of senior officials, police officers, judges, prosecutors, politicians and business people have been charged with corruption and other crimes.

Fico, considered a populist politician, served as the prime minister during 2006-2010 and again from 2012 to 2018.

He resigned after the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova.

Kuciak had been investigating possible government corruption when he was killed. The killings prompted major street protests unseen since the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia and a political crisis that led to the government’s collapse.

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