Police in Germany have arrested a suspect in the rape and killing of Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova, officials said.
Bulgaria‘s prosecutor general, Sotir Tsatsarov, confirmed the arrest of Severin Krassimirov, a 21-year-old Bulgarian citizen.
“We have collected a lot of evidence which for the time being suggests that the person is guilty. He has been charged in absence for two crimes – rape and premeditated murder with extreme cruelty,” he said.
Prosecutors in the northwestern German state of Lower Saxony said the suspect was arrested on Tuesday evening outside the city of Hamburg on a European arrest warrant.
Prosecutors will examine whether he can be extradited and apply to have him put in formal custody.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said investigators had found DNA evidence on the clothes and body of Marinova, who was raped and strangled on Saturday in the northern town of Ruse.
“There is physical evidence to link to the murder,” Marinov said on Wednesday.
He said Krassimirov, a resident of Ruse, had a criminal record for scrap metal theft.
The minister said investigators had spoken to Marinova’s family and friends and “there is no apparent link to her work.” Tsatsarov, the chief prosecutor, said the evidence suggested it was “a spontaneous attack, not premeditated”.
“We cannot state at this point that her murder is linked to her professional activity. We are continuing to work on all possible options.”
On Tuesday, a Romanian suspect was arrested and later released in relation to Marinova’s death.
Marinova was killed by blows on the head and suffocation, the authorities said, adding that prosecutors were probing all leads – both personal and linked to Marinova’s job.
The attack has shocked the country and drawn international condemnation amid speculation the murder could be linked to Marinova’s work as a journalist.
However, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov lashed out at international bodies and rights groups which had been quick to assume a political motive behind the murder.
“In just three days, I’ve read monstrous things about Bulgaria. None of them true,” he told a news conference.
“We, as a country, did not deserve to be smeared like this … while everyone has been working [to solve the crime] not 100, but 1,000 percent.”
Bulgaria is regarded as a laggard in the EU in terms of press freedom, ranking 111th out of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Widespread corruption, shady media ownership and suspected collusion between journalists, politicians and oligarchs have made objective reporting a constant obstacle course, according to RSF.