Hundreds of people have attended the funeral of the Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova, as authorities said a murder suspect arrested in Germany would be extradited soon. Ms Marinova left a seven-year-old daughter.
The 20-year-old Bulgarian suspect, named as Severin Krasimirov, who was arrested in the northern German city of Stade, near Hamburg, on Tuesday. Krasimirov admitted having an argument with her, the court said, and “under the strong influence of alcohol and drugs, punched the woman in the face, at which point she fell down. He then picked her up and threw her in a bush, but said he then left the scene.”
The Bulgarian government has disputed the immediate assumption by many international bodies and rights groups that the killing, which has shocked the country and drawn global condemnation, was connected to Marinova’s work. The prime minister, Boyko Borisov, said the suggestions were part of a smear campaign.
Bulgarian prosecutors said no evidence indicated Ms Marinova’s death was related to her work. A random attack and sexual assault were the most likely motive, they said, although they were still investigating all possibilities.
In her last aired show, Ms Marinova featured investigative journalists and pledged to engage in similar work, which stoked fears about retribution against journalists exposing corruption. She is the third journalist to be killed in the European Union within a year.
The suspect said during questioning that he did not want to kill Marinova and denied raping her.
Several Bulgarian TV channels have broadcast interviews with the suspect’s mother, Nadezhda Krasimirova. Speaking from her home in Stade, she said her son had told her he killed Marinova and was going to give himself up when he was arrested.
After a memorial service, Marinova was buried in a private ceremony in Ruse.
Marinova, who presented a current affairs show on the local television channel TVN, is the third journalist to be murdered in Europe in the past 12 months, after Ján Kuciak in Slovakia in February and Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October 2017.
Her final show included interviews with two investigative journalists from Bulgaria and Romania who had been working on allegations of corruption and misuse of EU aid.
Bulgaria has the lowest score for media freedom in the EU. Globally, it ranks 111th of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders.
The Guardian, Radio Free Europe, EuroNews