BRATISLAVA: Slovakia’s controversial former prime minister Vladimir Meciar has denied his administration’s intelligence agency was behind the unsolved 1995 abduction of the son of then president Michal Kovac, his main political rival.

The 74-year-old Meciar insisted that the Slovak Information Service (SIS) did not orchestrate the abduction of Michal Kovac junior, during a rare TV appearance late Tuesday night triggered by moves to reopen an investigation into the kidnapping that his government dropped in 1998.

Suspicion has swirled for years in Bratislava that Meciar, known for authoritarian tendencies, engineered the abduction himself to embarrass Kovacs. An Austrian court ruled in 1995 that it was most likely the work of Slovak authorities.

The Slovak parliament is expected to vote on whether to reopen the investigation later this month. Several previous attempts to do so have failed.

“Someone at SIS could have known about it, but it was not SIS,” Meciar told Slovakia’s TA3 news channel without elaborating on who he thought bore responsibility.

“Even today, I still don’t allow myself to tell the whole truth, it would be very shocking to the public. But it’s in my memory and it will come out in a book,” he added.

Kidnapped in August 1995 by unknown assailants in neighbouring Austria, the younger Kovac 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 15km from Bratislava.

A movie titled ‘Abduction’ based on the kidnapping that hit Slovak cinemas on March 2 has broken box office records, drawing 70,000 viewers in its first week.

Meciar blocked the investigation into the crime in 1998 by introducing an amnesty for “crimes committed in connection with the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Jr”.

Meciar served as Slovakia’s premier from 1990-91, 1992-94 and 1994-98. The United States and many European nations accused him of authoritarianism and corruption while in office.

Michal Kovac was the first president of independent Slovakia following the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

During his 1993-98 term, the banker-turned-politician openly criticised Meciar’s administration for attempting to curb newly won civil liberties after the collapse of communism in 1989.

In 1996, Kovac famously refused to sign Meciar’s so-called anti-subversion law that would have curbed freedom of expression.

Kovac died of heart failure in October 2016.