Slovak Poet Arrested for Attempted Assassination of PM: Government Accuses Opposition

Juraj Cintula from the town of Levice, a little-known poet who founded a local literary club, was at one time a pacifist who unsuccessfully founded the "Movement Against Violence"

by Sededin Dedovic
Slovak Poet Arrested for Attempted Assassination of PM: Government Accuses Opposition
© Zuzana Gogova / Getty Images

The Special Criminal Court in the Slovak city of Pezinok, under heavy police security, ordered the detention of 71-year-old Slovak Juraj Cintula today. Cintula, on May 15th in Handlova, shot Prime Minister Robert Fico five times, seriously injuring him in the abdomen, reports AP.

The prosecutor sought detention to prevent the suspect from fleeing or repeating the crime, and after a hearing, the court did not accept Cintula's written guarantees nor the proposal for him to defend himself while free under supervision.

Cintula hit the Prime Minister with four out of five bullets when, after a government session in Handlova, central Slovakia, he approached supporters to greet them. Cintula was immediately arrested. A leaked police recording shows him stating that he shot the Prime Minister because he disagreed with the government's policies on judicial changes, attempts to control public RTV service, and halting aid to Ukraine.

However, lawyers warned that the confession is questionable as it was obtained while Cintula was in shock, immediately after the assassination attempt and arrest, and without the presence of a lawyer. Interior Minister Matus Shutaj Estok said that the attacker had no accomplices, describing him as a "lone shooter," and indicated that the attack on the Prime Minister was politically motivated.

Cintula had previously attended at least one anti-government demonstration in Dolna Krupa. Juraj Cintula, from Levice, is a little-known poet who founded a local literary club and was once a pacifist who unsuccessfully established the "Movement Against Violence," calling on Slovaks to protest peacefully against "the greed of politicians." Later, he became fascinated by an extremist right-wing illegal paramilitary pro-Russian group, the "Slovak Defenders," with whom he met.

This group collaborated with the Russian bikers "Night Wolves."

Newly elected President of Slovakia, Peter Pellegrini (2nd L) walks to the media in front of the Faculty Hospital and a clinic o© Zuzana Gogova / Getty Images

Although the Slovak authorities, including the radical nationalist Slovak National Party, which is part of the ruling coalition, are trying to portray Cintula as someone who wanted to persuade the Defenders to avoid violence, his comments on social media clearly show he was a public supporter, appreciating their independence from the state and their enthusiasm for their cause.

He valued the Defenders, who practiced hunting illegal migrants in Slovak forests, for their claimed intent to protect Europe from migrants. Cintula's xenophobia aligns with his racist pamphlets against Roma people. The attacker shot the Slovak Prime Minister with a pistol for which he had a permit, partly due to his previous job as a security guard in stores.

In 2016, he was attacked and beaten by a drugged youth stealing frozen chicken while working as a guard. It is unclear why someone with such confused views, who called himself a poet and dissenter, became so radicalized. According to neighbors and acquaintances, he could react sharply to various injustices.

For the crime Cintula is charged with—attempted murder with premeditation out of revenge against a protected person—Slovak law prescribes a sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment. Information about the investigation is under embargo, so the media and public rely on brief police, prosecutor, and government representative updates, unofficial sources, and speculation.

It is still uncertain if and when Robert Fico will recover from the consequences of the assassination attempt. The country united in shock, but not for long—Fico's party colleagues accuse the opposition and media of being the "intellectual instigators" of the crime, reports DW.

Life-threatening gunshot wounds, hours-long surgeries with uncertain outcomes, and possibly months of recovery—Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico barely survived the assassination attempt on Wednesday (May 15th). Since the assassination of Zoran Dindic (Former prime minister of Serbia), there hasn't been an assassination attempt on a head of government in any European country for two decades.

The shock is profound, especially in Slovakia but also elsewhere. The attack on Fico is a sad climax of increasing violence against politicians in many European countries. In Slovakia—a deeply politically divided country of five million people, where exceptionally harsh and violent rhetoric prevails between opposing sides—almost all of Fico's opponents expressed horror and outrage.

The main opposition party canceled protests against the planned public service reform proposed by Fico's government. President Zuzana Chaputová, who has also been the target of numerous smear campaigns and has therefore decided to step down from her political career, called on the political elite and the public to renounce the climate of hate and verbal violence.

The motives of the perpetrator are not entirely clear. It was evidently the act of a lone perpetrator. Juraj C. (71) from the town of Levice in southwestern Slovakia was involved in literature and previously worked as a security guard.

He had previously posted anti-immigrant and anti-Roma content on social media. At the same time, he seemed to oppose the right-wing nationalist government coalition led by Prime Minister Fico. Observers describe this man as obviously frustrated and politically confused.