Police in Germany have arrested a suspect in the rape and killing of Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova, whose work highlighted corruption in the eastern European country, officials said Wednesday.
Bulgaria’s prosecutor general, Sotir Tsatsarov, confirmed the arrest of Severin Krassimirov, a 21-year-old Bulgarian citizen.
Prosecutors in the northwestern German state of Lower Saxony said the suspect was arrested Tuesday evening outside the city of Hamburg on a European arrest warrant.
Prosecutors will examine whether he can be extradited and will apply to have him put in formal custody.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said investigators had found DNA evidence on clothes and body of Marinova, who was raped and strangled on Saturday in the northern town of Ruse.
“There is physical evidence to link to the murder,” Marinov said.
He said Krassimirov, a resident of Ruse, had a criminal record for scrap metal theft.
The minister said investigators had spoken to Marinova’s family and friends and the attack had “no apparent link to her work.” Tsatsarov said the evidence suggested it was “a spontaneous attack, not premeditated.”
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov offered condolences to Marinova’s family and thanked investigators for their work.
Borissov said, however, he would withdraw his support for German MEP Manfred Weber, a leading candidate to for the next head of the European Commission, because of tweets he made associating the death of Marinova with those of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak. Both were killed due to their probes into corrupt officials.
On Wednesday, Weber tweeted:
I strongly welcome the preliminary results of the inquiries into the murder of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ViktoriaMarinova?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ViktoriaMarinova</a>. Bulgarian authorities have acted swiftly and effectively. We have full confidence in the Bulgarian authorities to find justice for the family and loved ones of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ViktoriaMarinova?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ViktoriaMarinova</a>.
Marinova hosted a show last month featuring two investigative journalists who were detained for their work on suspected fraud involving European Union funds.
While Marinova didn’t appear to have been closely involved in the fraud investigation, her show touched on a sensitive subject in Bulgaria, where corruption is endemic. The Balkan nation, which joined the EU in 2007, was ranked 71st on Transparency International’s corruption list last year.
Joining the bloc opened an enormous source of possible new funding for Bulgarian infrastructure projects or other programs designed to bring the nation up to EU standards.