Slovak PM Fico in ‘serious condition’ as shooting suspect appears in court

Court near Bratislava rules that man accused in assassination attempt will be held in custody.

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico remained in hospital in “serious condition” as a court ruled that the man accused in the assassination attempt will be held in custody.

On Saturday, Minister of Health Zuzana Dolinkova said a two-hour surgery on Fico the previous day to remove dead tissue from multiple gunshot wounds “contributed to a positive prognosis”.

But it was unlikely that the prime minister will be transferred from the hospital in Banska Bystrica to the capital, Bratislava, in the coming days as he remains in “serious condition”, said Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak, who is also the defence minister.

Fico, 59, was shot five times on Wednesday as he was leaving a government meeting and greeting people in the central town of Handlova.

Meanwhile, a court in Pezinok, northeast of Bratislava, on Saturday ruled that the suspect will be held in pre-trial detention, a spokesperson said.

The prosecutor had request that the suspect – reportedly a 71-year-old former security guard at a shopping mall and the author of three collections of poetry – be placed in custody after he had been charged with a premeditated attempted murder.

“If the shot went just a few centimetres higher, it would have hit the prime minister’s liver,” Minister of Interior Matus Sutaj Estok told broadcaster TA3.

Prosecutors had earlier asked police not to publicly identify the suspect or release other information about the case, but some details were reported by local media outlets.

The court was guarded by officers wearing balaclavas and carrying rifles. News media were not allowed inside.

Police on Friday had taken the suspect to his home in the town of Levice and seized a computer and some documents, according to Slovak broadcaster Markiza.

‘Political blame game’

The assassination attempt shocked the European Union and NATO member country of 5.4 million people, already sharply divided over politics for years.

Prosecutors said the attacker acted alone, but Fico’s supporters say the opposition is partly to blame for stoking political tensions.

Kalinak, Fico’s closest ally, slammed opposition politicians and “selected media” on Friday for labelling the prime minister as a criminal, dictator or Russian President Vladimir Putin’s servant before the attack.

“All these lies are the main reason why Robert Fico is fighting for his life today,” he said in an emotional message posted on the website of their political party, Smer.

He also accused opposition parties and the media of fanning acrimony by encouraging protests against government policies.

Slovak opposition party leader Michal Simecka, who described the shooting as an attack on democracy, said on Friday that he, his wife and child had received death threats.

Outgoing pro-Western President Zuzana Caputova and her successor Peter Pellegrini, another Fico ally who will assume office in June, have called on fellow Slovaks to refrain from “confrontation”.

They called a meeting of all parliamentary party leaders for Tuesday in a bid to show unity in the aftermath of the attack.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies