A man taken into custody in connection with the brutal murder of a female Bulgarian journalist is set to be released and won’t be charged in her slaying, a senior police officer said Tuesday.
Teodor Atanassov, the chief police officer of the northern town of Ruse, told reporters the man – who has not been identified – would be freed “very shortly.” He declined to provide further details into the ongoing investigation about the rape and murder of television reporter Viktoria Marinova.
Marinova’s body was found Saturday near the Danube River. She had been strangled.
The 30-year-old journalist hosted a show last month in which she interviewed investigative journalists who were detained for their work on suspected fraud involving businessmen, politicians and European Union funds.
Bulgarian prosecutors announced late Monday they had opened an investigation into GP Group, a large private Bulgarian building company alleged to have misused the EU money. The interior minister said they froze $16 million of the company’s assets.
Bulgarian interior minister Mladen Marinov initially denied that Marinova’s murder was linked to her reporting, and said there was no evidence she had been threatened.
The Balkan nation joined the EU in 2007 and was ranked 71st on Transparency International’s corruption list last year. Joining the bloc opened an enormous spigot of possible new EU funding for Bulgarian infrastructure projects or other programs designed to bring the nation up to EU standards.
Journalists’ groups and European leaders expressed shock at Marinova’s murder. Margaritis Schinas, a spokesman for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said Monday that the commission expected “a swift and thorough investigation …. that will bring those responsible to justice and clarify whether this attack was linked to her work.”
A reporter from TVN told AFP, “We are in shock. In no way, under any form, never have we received any threats – aimed at her or the television.”
But that assertion was contradicted by Asen Yordanov, the owner of the investigative website, bivol.bg, who told AFP that he had received information that his reporters were in danger of being assaulted. He said Marinova was linked to bivol.bg’s investigations because its reporters had appeared on her show.
“Viktoria’s death, the brutal manner in which she was killed, is an execution,” Yordanov said. “It was meant to serve as an example, something like a warning.”
Marinova’s killing was widely-condemned on Twitter by fellow journalists and watchdog groups.
“Shocked by [the] horrific murder of investigative journalists Victoria Marinova in #Bulgaria,” read a tweet from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Marinova is the third journalist murdered in the EU within the last year, Reuters reported. According to the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index, Bulgaria ranks lower than other EU member.
Fox News’ Lucia Suarez, Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.