October 10, 2018 / 7:31 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 3-Bulgarian arrested in Germany, charged with journalist's murder

* Marinova was anchor on local TV station

* Her show was set to investigate graft

* Prosecutors say evidence pointed to sexual assault

* No link established to her work so far (Adds European Commission President Juncker statement)

By Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA, Oct 10 (Reuters) - A Bulgarian man has been detained in Germany over the rape and murder of television journalist Viktoria Marinova, officials said on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said journalists in Bulgaria had total freedom to write and report.

The suspect was arrested on Tuesday at the request of Bulgaria, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov told a news briefing attended by Borissov and the country’s chief prosecutor.

He has been charged over the killing and Bulgarian authorities were expecting Germany to extradite him to Bulgaria, Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said.

The Interior Ministry of the German state of Lower Saxony confirmed that a 20-year old suspect has been arrested in the city of Stade in the home of relatives’ on Tuesday night and was due to be brought before a magistrate on Wednesday.

The body of the 30-year-old journalist, who police said had been raped, beaten and suffocated, was found on Saturday.

On her last TV show, on Sept. 30, Marinova introduced two journalists who were investigating suspected corruption involving EU funds and said her own show, “Detector”, on local television station NTV, would carry out similar investigations.

No link has been established to her work so far and Borissov criticised Bulgarians who he said had rushed to mention Bulgaria along with Malta and Slovakia, where journalists had been killed recently for their work.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s best-known investigative reporter, was killed when a bomb blew up her car in October last year and Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak was shot dead in February.

Borissov said journalists in Bulgaria had “total freedom to write and report on any topic”.

“We have done all this work in the frame of three days. In the frame of three days I read monstrous things about Bulgaria and none of which was true,” he said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker praised the Bulgarian authorities’ efforts.

“The swift reaction and joint efforts demonstrate the resolve to bring justice for such despicable acts. Our thoughts remain with Viktoria Marinova’s family and friends,” he said in a statement.

The suspect was identified as Severin Krasimirov from Ruse, who lived near the park where Marinova’s body was found. He left the country on Sunday, the interior minister told reporters.

Chief Prosecutor Tsatsarov told the news conference that he could not say at this stage if the murder was linked to Marinova’s work as a journalist. The collected evidence so far pointed to a spontaneous attack and sexual assault, he said.

“We have collected a lot of evidence which for the time being suggests that the person is guilty. He has been charged in absence for two crimes - rape and premeditated murder with extreme cruelty,” Tsatsarov said.

Her death has shocked and angered many in Bulgaria, where people are frustrated with corruption and an inefficient judiciary that has been criticised by the European Commission.

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

The European Commission has urged Bulgaria to conduct a rapid investigation and the U.S. Embassy said it was shocked by the “horrific murder”. (Additional reporting by Angel Krasimirov in Sofia and Michelle Martin in Berlin; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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