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Suspects in Slovak journalist's killing face more charges

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BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Four suspects in last year’s killings of a Slovak investigative journalist and his fiance have also been charged with ordering the murders of two prosecutors and a lawyer, national police said on Wednesday.

The February 2018 murder of Jan Kuciak, who uncovered fraud cases involving politically connected businessmen, and his fiance Martina Kusnirova cast a spotlight on corruption and cronyism in the central European country and sparked mass protests that forced then-Prime Minister Robert Fico to resign.

A police statement said four people, identified by initals that matched the previously released names of the suspects in Kuciak’s murder, have been charged with ordering the murders of two prosecutors and the lawyer.

It did not name the intended victims. But General Prosecutor Jaroslav Ciznar named them in February as then-deputy general prosecutor Peter Sufliarsky, special prosecutor Maros Zilinka, and Daniel Lipsic, a former interior minister who went on to work as a lawyer for Kuciak’s family.

The four suspects charged with carrying out the murders of Kuciak and Kusnirova were arrested last September and are awaiting trial. In March, businessman Marian Kocner was charged with ordering Kuciak’s killing.

Four suspects, including Kocner, have denied wrongdoing, while the fifth has confessed to shooting Kuciak, according to daily Dennik N and website, where Kuciak worked.

A few months before the 27-year-old Kuciak’s killing, the journalist told police Kocner had threatened to start collecting information on him and his family. Police pressed no charges.

Two deputy general prosecutors, including would-be target Sufliarsky, have been forced to resign under pressure since January over their contacts with Kocner.

The murders stoked public anger over perceived corruption in Slovakia, a country of 5.4 million people, spawning the biggest protests since communist rule ended three decades earlier.

Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Mark Heinrich