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Defendant in Slovak reporter's slaying sentenced to 23 years

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — A Slovakian court on Moday sentenced a former soldier to 23 years in prison for the alleged contract killings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee, a case that triggered a political crisis and brought down the country’s government.

The court in the town of Pezinok, north of the capital Bratislava, convicted Miroslav Marcek over the fatal shootings of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova in February 2018. Marcek had pleaded guilty in January.

A ruling is also pending for three other defendants in the case, including the businessman accused of masterminding the slayings. All three have pleaded not guilty to murder, and face prison sentences of 25 years to life if convicted. It is not clear when a verdict might be issued.

A fifth suspect made an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a lesser sentence and received a 15-year prison term on Dec 30. The suspected mastermind, Marian Kocner, had allegedly threatened the journalist following publication of a story about his business dealings. Prosecutors claimed he paid Marcek a total of 70,000 euros ($75,500) for the killing.

The 27-year-old Kuciak was shot in the chest and the 27-year-old Kusnirova was shot in the head at their home in the town of Velka Maca, east of Bratislava, on Feb. 21, 2018. The killings prompted major street protests and a political crisis that led to the previous government’s collapse. Kuciak had been also investigating possible government corruption.

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