Slovakia could treat killings outside gay bar as terrorism, prosecutor says

Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova stands next to her partner Juraj Rizman and the owner of a gay bar as a person lays a tribute at the site of a shooting in Bratislava, Slovakia October 13, 2022. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa reuters_tickers
This content was published on October 14, 2022 - 14:02

(Reuters) - Slovakia could treat the killing of two people outside a well-known gay bar in the capital Bratislava as an act of terrorism, a top prosecutor said on Friday, as investigators looked deeper into the shooting which has rattled the central European state.

The killings, investigated as a possible hate crime although police have yet to determine its motives, have sparked outrage from politicians and rights groups, and prompted the president to call for reflection on the political climate in the country.

Police found the suspected killer dead on Thursday morning, after he shot his victims outside the Teplaren bar in the city centre on Wednesday evening. Police said they suspected the shooter then committed suicide.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger has called the shooter a "radicalised teenager" while President Zuzana Caputova said in a Facebook post that the shooting was a crime of hatred.

On Friday, police and judicial officials said investigations so far showed no indications the killer knew his victims.

Police on Friday identified those killed as 23-year-old Matus H. and 26-year-old Juraj V. A third victim, Radoslava T., 28, was wounded in her leg.

Police said the suspected killer was 19-year-old Juraj K. who had used a gun with a laser sight, registered to a relative.

Slovak media reported the suspected killer had posted messages with the phrases "hate crime" and "gay bar" hashtagged on Twitter, and he had posted a manifesto against the LGBT and Jewish communities before the killings.

Special Prosecutor Daniel Lipsic said the manifesto and more evidence were being examined.

"The suspicion is that the motive of this act was to destabilise society," he told a televised briefing. "These points lead us to the possible consideration that we could classify this criminal offence as an act of terrorism."

On Friday evening, thousands were expected to march through Bratislava, joined by Heger. Caputova will address the crowds.

"I want to say to the LGBT community, it is not you who don't belong here... It is hate that does not belong in Slovakia," Caputova said on Thursday after visiting the scene of the attack.

She wrote in a Facebook post that words were also weapons and many politicians were "filling the space with hate", without elaborating.

Her critique comes as far-right parties have made gains in recent years.

The finance minister leaned on lawmakers from a far-right opposition party in June to push through a bill aimed at helping people hit by high energy prices.

That vote sparked a row in the ruling coalition that led a junior party to quit last month, leaving the government with a minority in parliament.

(Reporting by Robert Muller and Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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