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Third consecutive Slovakian police chief resigns over legal action

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By AFP
Slovakia has worked to stamp out corruption following the 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak.
Slovakia has worked to stamp out corruption following the 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak.   -   Copyright  Lukas Grinaj/TASR via AP, FILE
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Slovakia's police chief has announced that he will resign amid accusations of abuse of power.

Peter Kovařík said on Tuesday that he would step down from the role in September, becoming the third consecutive Slovakian police chief to give up the post due to legal action.

Last week, the public prosecutor's office in Bratislava accused Kovařík of obstruction of justice by preventing the arrest of two suspected members of a criminal network. He has denied the allegations.

"I have taken this decision because throughout my professional career I have strived to improve the reliability of the police and cannot envisage keeping this position while facing lawsuits," Kovařík said.

Under Kovařík's leadership, Slovakian police had begun to uncover large-scale corruption cases, mainly involving senior officials appointed by the former ruling Smer-SD party.

Interior Minister Roman Mikulec said Kovařík was innocent and hailed his decision as "the act of a servant of the state".

Kovařík took up the post in 2020 after the resignation of his predecessor Milan Lučanský, who was accused of taking large bribes and later committed suicide in prison.

Lučanský's predecessor, Tibor Gašpar, was also forced to resign amid allegations that he did not carry out an impartial investigation into the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak, due to his political connections.

Kuciak, a prominent reporter who was investigating corruption in senior Slovakian officials, his fiancée Martina Kusnirova were killed in March 2018.

Gašpar is facing corruption charges and is currently in detention.

Zuzana Petkova, chairwoman of the NGO Stop Corruption, said the consecutive resignations of three police chiefs "certainly do not strengthen the public's trust in the police".

"On the other hand, after the murder of Jan Kuciak, we have seen a process of cleaning up within the police, and this is a positive development," she added.