PRAGUE (AP) - Tens of thousands of Slovaks rallied in massive anti-government protests across the country on Friday to demand a thorough investigation of the slayings of an investigative reporter and his fiancee, and changes in government.
The protesters packed a central square in Bratislava and other rallies were taking place in dozens of other places in Slovakia as well as abroad, the biggest since the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
The organizers want foreign experts to join the team investigating the killings and the creation of “a new trustworthy government with no people who are suspected of corruption” or ties to organized crime.
Jan Kuciak’s last, unfinished story was about the activities of Italian mafia in Slovakia and their ties to people close to Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose government is allegedly also linked to other corruption scandals.
“Slovakia is shaken as it has not been for a long time,” organizer Karolina Farska said.
The peaceful protesters had a message for Fico: “Resign,” they repeatedly chanted.
In the wake of the unprecedented slayings of Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova, Slovakia quickly turned from what seemed to be a stable European Union country into chaos.
In a speech last month, President Andrej Kiska talked about his country as “successful, proud and self-confident.” On March 4, however, he said Slovakia faces a “serious political crisis” triggered by the shooting deaths. Police said Kuciak’s killing was likely linked to his work.
The political storm has been intensifying daily since the bodies were found Feb. 25.
Amid heated exchanges between the ruling coalition and the opposition, claims by Fico of conspiracies against him, and his repeated verbal attacks on Kiska, a growing number of people have started to turn against the Fico government, threatening its very existence.