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Slovak linked to reporter slaying sentenced in separate case

In this file picture taken on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, Marian Kocner the suspected mastermind in the slaying of an investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova is escorted by armed police officers from a courtroom after a trial session in Pezinok, Slovakia. On Thursday Feb. 27, 2020 in a separate trial, Kocner has been sentenced to 19 years in prison in a case of forgery against a local TV broadcaster. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek/File)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — A businessman allegedly linked to the slaying of an investigative journalist in Slovakia has been sentenced to 19 years in prison in a separate case of forgery.

Marian Kocner was charged with forgery, together with former Economy Minister Pavol Rusko.

A court in the town of Pezinok sentenced the two to the same prison terms on Thursday. They pleaded not guilty and can appeal.

Kocner had claimed tens of millions of euros (dollars) from Markiza TV, where Rusko was a director before it was taken over by Central European Media Enterprises, controlled by U.S. company AT&T. The claim is based on promissory notes that Markiza says are fake.

Kocner currently also faces a separate trial where he could get a prison sentence of 25 years to life for allegedly ordering the 2018 slayings of the reporter Jan Kuciak, and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova.

The killings triggered major street protests and a political crisis that led to the previous government’s collapse.

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