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Slovakia drops kidnapping probe against ex-premier Meciar

© AFP/File | The 1995 kidnapping of the son of Slovakia's first president is long suspected to have been masterminded by then-premier Valdimir Meciar, seen in 2007

BRATISLAVA (AFP) - 

Police in Slovakia said Thursday they have dropped a probe into the unsolved 1995 abduction of the son of the country's first president, a crime long suspected to have been masterminded by then premier Vladimir Meciar.

"The case has been dropped due to a statute of limitations," police spokeswoman Lucia Mihalikova told AFP.

The son of former liberal president Michal Kovac -- Meciar's arch-rival -- was kidnapped in August 1995 by unknown assailants in neighbouring Austria.

Michal Kovac junior was blindfolded and handcuffed, forced to drink a bottle of whisky and given electric shocks.

He came round in his car near a police station in the Austrian town of Hainburg, near the Slovak border and just 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the capital Bratislava.

An Austrian court ruled in 1995 that it was most likely the work of Slovak authorities.

In 1998 Meciar blocked the investigation into the crime by introducing an amnesty for "crimes committed in connection with the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr", feeding suspicion he had arranged it to embarrass Kovac, his main political rival.

Meciar, now 75, has denied any involvement.

Meanwhile a recent opinion poll showed that 63 percent of Slovaks still wanted to see the kidnapping investigated.

Earlier this year Slovakia's Constitutional Court found that Meciar had exceeded his powers when he granted amnesty.

Parliament also voted in April to repeal the amnesty paving the way for the new inquiry.

Meciar, who served three times as prime minister, was sharply criticised by the United States and many European nations for his authoritarian rule and widespread corruption while in office.

He was also condemned by Kovac, the first president of independent Slovakia, for attempting to curb newly won civil liberties after the collapse of communism in 1989.

Kovac died of heart failure in October 2016.

© 2017 AFP