Bulgarian arrested in Germany charged with murder of journalist

Bulgarian is arrested in Germany and charged with raping and killing journalist who investigated EU corruption

  • TV journalist Viktoria Marinova, 30, was murdered on Saturday in Ruse, Bulgaria 
  • Bulgarian authorities have charged a Bulgarian man in Germany on Wednesday
  • Interior minister Mladen Marinov said he will now be extradited back to Bulgaria
  • A Romanian man with a Moldovan passport was arrested in Bulgaria on Tuesday
  • Police revealed yesterday the suspect was held for 24 hours to examine his alibi 
  • Marinova recently filmed interviews with journalists about alleged EU fund fraud

A Bulgarian man has been arrested in Germany and charged with the rape and murder of renowned TV journalist Viktoria Marinova.

Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor said on Wednesday that a suspect had been arrested in Germany on Tuesday in connection with Ms Marinova’s brutal killing last week.

Prosecutors said she had been raped, beaten and suffocated with her body left dumped in a park near the Danube river in Ruse on Saturday. 

Bulgarian interior minister Mladen Marinov revealed that the country had filed charges against the suspect and were expecting Germany to transfer him into their custody within days.

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Viktoria Marinova, pictured during a TV Ruse broadcast, was found brutally murdered on Saturday in the Bulgarian city of Ruse

Police sources said that the crime did not immediately appear linked to the 30-year-old journalist’s work

Police walk near a crime scene in Ruse. Investigators are looking into whether the killing was motivated by her work, personal life or was committed by a random attacker

The latest arrest comes just 24 hours after a Romanian man was detained by Bulgarian authorities over Ms Marinova’s killing. 

The other suspect, a ‘Romanian citizen with a passport from Moldova’, was being held for 24 hours while his alibi was investigated – Ruse police chief commissioner, Teodor Atanasov said on Tuesday. 

Prosecutors are currently examining whether the killing was committed due to Ms Marinova’s work, personal life or was by a random attacker with mental health problems, as the spot where she was found was near a psychiatric clinic.

Mourners held flowers, candles and pictures of the 30-year-old and gathered at a candle-lit vigil at Liberty Monument in the city on Monday night.

They also held images of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who was killed in 2006 in her apartment block.

On Ms Marinova’s last aired TV show as an anchor, on September 30, she introduced two journalists who were investigating alleged corruption involving EU funds. 

That appearance was her first time anchoring the show on Ruse-based TV station TVN – a popular channel in northeastern Bulgaria. 

Police confirmed on Wednesday a Bulgarian man had been arrested in Germany over her killing

Marinova’s last news broadcast was on TV station TVN – a popular channel in northeastern Bulgaria – and was about an investigation into alleged misuse of EU funds

Ms Marinova has become the third journalist murdered in the European Union over the past 12 months

Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said: ‘We do not exclude that it was a random attack, we do not exclude that it was a premeditated attempt on her life’

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She said the regional current affairs show, ‘Detector’, would do similar investigations.

Previously she was best known for presenting a regional lifestyle show and was not a household name nationally. 

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive said in a tweet yesterday: ‘There is no democracy without a free press … We expect a swift and thorough investigation to bring those responsible to justice.’

The European anti-fraud office OLAF declined to comment on the killing, but its press office said it was ‘aware of allegations concerning possible misuse of EU funds in Bulgaria that have been brought to light by journalists in recent weeks’.

Frans Timmermans, commission vice-president, said he was ‘shocked by the horrendous murder of Victoria [sic] Marinova’.

He tweeted: ‘Again a courageous journalist falls in the fight for truth and against corruption. Those responsible should be brought to justice immediately by the Bulgarian authorities.’

The 30-year-old was raped, beaten and suffocated before her body left dumped in a park near the Danube river

Police said no match had been found for DNA samples collected from the crime scene, which was close to a psychiatric clinic

A man (centre) holds a picture of murdered Bulgarian TV journalist Viktoria Marinova while another man holds a picture of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed in 2006

Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said that there was no evidence to suggest a link to Marinova’s work as a journalist so far – which was echoed by police and prosecutors.

Marinov told reporters on Monday: ‘We are working on all possible motives and we do not exclude any.’

He said no match had been found for DNA samples collected so far from the crime scene, which was close to a psychiatric clinic.

Marinova’s final show was a program about Attila Biro, an investigative journalist with the Rise Project Romania and a colleague from the Bulgarian investigative site Bivol.bg, Dimitar Stoyanov. 

The two men were briefly detained September 13 south of Sofia, the capital, as they investigated a tip that documents connected to suspected fraud involving EU funds were being shredded and destroyed.

The body of Viktoria Marinova (pictured), 30, was found in a park in Ruse, Bulgaria on Saturday

A journalist is killed on average every week, according to figures compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Police conferring at the site where Bulgarian TV journalist Viktoria Marinova was killed on Saturday

Bivol.bg owner Assen Yordanov said he couldn’t directly link Marinova’s slaying to her work, but added that her show tackled ‘our very sensitive investigation into the misuse of EU funds’.

Police and prosecutors said they were working on three possible motives – whether Marinova was a victim of a random attack by a person with a mental disorder, a planned attack or whether the crime was linked to her personal life.

Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said: ‘We do not exclude that it was a random attack, we do not exclude that it was a premeditated attempt on her life.’ 

Vigils for Marinova, mother of a seven-year-old daughter, were held in Ruse and the northern cities of Vidin and Pleven, as well as the capital, Sofia on Monday night.

A woman places flowers next to a portrait of slain television reporter Viktoria Marinova during a vigil at the Liberty Monument in Ruse, Bulgaria on Monday evening

A man lighting candles in honour of Viktoria Marinova who is pictured next to him in Sofia on Tuesday

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said: ‘Thanks to the large amount of DNA material collected it is just a matter of time before the perpetrator will be found.’

The TVN channel expressed shock over the killing of its colleague and board member, but declined to comment further, saying it would give investigators time to do their job first. The channel was due to air a tribute to her later on Monday.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s media freedom representative Harlem Desir condemned Marinova’s killing on Twitter: ‘Shocked by horrific murder of investigative journalist Victoria Marinova in #Bulgaria. Urgently call for a full and thorough investigation. Those responsible must be held to account.’ 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said other TVN journalists should get police protection during the investigation. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it was ‘shocked by the barbaric murder’.

Bulgaria ranked 111 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) world press freedom index this year, lower than any other EU member.

Widespread corruption, shady media ownership and suspected collusion between journalists, politicians, and oligarchs have made objective reporting a constant obstacle course, RSF said. 

Hundreds of Bulgarians attend a candlelight vigil in memory of Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova in the city of Ruse

A portrait of the Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova at a vigil in Sofia as hundreds across the country mourned her death

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