Protests rage on over Slovak government’s plan to amend penal code

Protests rage on over Slovak government’s plan to amend penal code


Thousands returned to the streets of major cities across Slovakia on Tuesday to continue their protests against a plan by the new government of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico to amend the country’s penal code.

The changes proposed by the coalition government include a proposal to abolish the special prosecutors’ office, which handles serious crimes such as graft, organized crime and extremism by mid-January.

According to the proposal, those cases will now be taken over by prosecutors in regional offices, which haven’t dealt with such crimes for 20 years.

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Michal Simecka, head of the liberal Progressive Slovakia, the strongest opposition party, said the changes “would result in amnesty for mafia and corrupt people.”

“We have to show them that we’ll defend justice,” Simecka said.

Meanwhile in the streets people repeatedly chanted “We’ve had enough of Fico.”

Now-Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is seen in Bratislava, Slovakia, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

The legislation approved by Fico’s government needs parliamentary and presidential approval. The three-party coalition has a majority in parliament.

Fico returned to power for the fourth time after his scandal-tainted leftist party won Slovakia’s Sept. 30 parliamentary election on a pro-Russia and anti-American platform.

His critics worry that his return could lead Slovakia to abandon its pro-Western course and instead follow the direction of Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Since Fico’s government came to power, some elite investigators and police officials who deal with top corruption cases have been dismissed or furloughed. The planned changes in the legal system also include a reduction in punishments for corruption.

Under the previous government, which came to power in 2020 after campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket, dozens of senior officials, police officers, judges, prosecutors, politicians and businesspeople linked to Fico’s party have been charged and convicted of corruption and other crimes.

The protests have been gaining steam since Dec. 7, when people took to the streets of Bratislava.

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Organizers said Tuesday that rallies took place in Kosice, Presov, Poprad, Banska Bystrica, Zilina, Nitra, Trnava, Trencin, Spisska Nova Ves, Liptovsky Mikulas and Povazska Bystrica.



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