Former Slovak premier detained for protest during lockdown

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was detained by police in Bratislava on Thursday for organizing an anti-government rally that had been banned due to lockdown rules.

Fico’s leftist Smer-Social Democracy party and police confirmed the detention, which took place before the planned demonstration in the Slovak capital Thursday evening.

Police said they would not give more details till Friday.

Any public gatherings of more than six people, including protests, have been banned after the government imposed strict restrictions to tackle a record surge of coronavirus infections in late November

Fico, a populist leader, has been a vocal critic of the government’s response to the pandemic, and opposed vaccination.

The pandemic became a major challenge for the current coalition government that took power after beating Fico in elections early last year.

Earlier this year, Slovakia’s top court ruled that a nationwide referendum cannot be held on whether to call an early parliamentary election.

President Zuzana Caputova had asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the matter after over 585,000 Slovak citizens signed petitions calling for a snap vote, which the opposition proposed over the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Slovakia has been one of the hardest hit European Union countries. The nation of 5.5 million has registered more than 794,000 infections with 15,730 deaths.

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