‘Good neighbour’: The small-town Slovak writer suspected of PM shooting

‘Good neighbour’: The small-town Slovak writer suspected of PM shooting
‘Good neighbour’: The small-town Slovak writer suspected of PM shooting

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Picture taken on May 16, 2024 shows a man named Vladimir Petko holding a Slovakia flag, who came to pray in front of the hospital in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is being treated after he was shot "multiple times" the day before. — AFP pic

LEVICE (Slovakia), May 17 — A “good neighbour”, an amateur writer, an angry citizen: The 71-year-old accused of the attempted assassination of Slovakia’s prime minister led a life apparently far removed from his alleged violence.

At a block of flats in Levice, a small town in central Slovakia, passersby glanced quickly at the windows of an apartment on the seventh floor as police came and went.

The suspected attacker, who has been charged and named in Slovak media as Juraj Cintula, has lived for decades in the apartment, according to his neighbour, Ludovit Mile.

“He must have gone crazy,” said Mile, who spoke of a “friendly, helpful neighbour” he has known since 1983 and last spoke to on Monday — just two days before his alleged attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico.

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“We all have our political opinions, but he never spoke about his forcefully,” said Mile, although he admitted that he was “against certain measures taken by the government” which came to power last year.

‘Against violence’

Mile, 68, said it was “not possible” that the Cintula he knew could have carried out a politically-motivated attack, describing him as a peaceful man fond of country walks with his wife.

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Cintula, a father of two adult children, had been working as a security guard in a shopping centre in Levice but stopped a few years ago because of some health problems, he said.

Slovak media broadcast old footage of the man in which he could be seen speaking to a local television station in 2016 after being attacked by an angry client when he was working at a supermarket.

The footage showed a slim man with a salt and pepper beard covered in bruises on his face and arms.

A short time later, Cintula said in YouTube videos that he had founded a political movement “against violence”.

“The world is full of violence and weapons. People seem to be going crazy,” he said in one video.

He said he had founded a “Movement Against Violence” in Levice, whose page has 191 followers.

The page said it was “an emerging political party whose goal is to prevent the spread of violence in society. To prevent war in Europe and the spread of hatred”.

One of the last posts on the page was a video of a rally against the war in Ukraine.

He had also made online comments against immigration, and criticised European governments for not being able to counter “chaos”.

Book club

Mile said he spoke little with his neighbour about his other apparent interest — literature.

Cintula was an active member of the book club DUHA (Rainbow), according to its Facebook page.

The name of the club was chosen because “every artist has their style but together we can create more beauty”, one of the members of the club, who did not want to be named, told AFP on Thursday.

The club is “strictly apolitical” and in a statement condemned as “an immense tragedy” Wednesday’s attack on Fico, which has left the prime minister in a serious condition with four gunshot wounds.

The suspect “has not attended any meetings or any events at the club since 2019 and none of his work has been published” since then, Duha said, adding that it had been “attacked” with hate messages since Wednesday.

On social media, a photo of the pensioner taken in 2016 with some members of a pro-Russian association close to the far-right has also prompted many questions.

He wrote on Facebook to praise them as “patriots” protecting the population. The paramilitary organisation halted its activities two years ago. — AFP

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