Hojs rejects allegations of political interference in police

Ljubljana – Interior Minister Aleš Hojs rejected all allegations of political interference in police as he testified on Thursday in front of a parliamentary inquiry commission on topics ranging from staffing at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the task force on migrations, PPE procurement, and police conduct during anti-government protests.

During the four-hour testimony, Hojs said that he had personally appointed all three police commissioners that had been appointed during his term, as he was permitted by law to do so.

Regarding the professionalism of the appointed police commissioners, Hojs said that they had met the criteria, and that he had known nothing about their allegedly controversial acts from the past reported by certain media outlets.

The minister added that he had been not involved in any other appointments in the police force.

As for the investigation of the procurement of protective medical equipment, Hojs said that the police had acted in accordance with his instructions that this matter should be investigated.

He said that he had not tendered his resignation, which he later retracted, over a house search at Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, but over many things that coincided at that time, including an information leak before the house search.

The minister said he had not known who headed the investigation of the procurement of protective medical equipment, and that he knew nothing about the transfer of this person to the task force that deals with the case backlog.

“I have no idea, staffing in the police is not within my purview,” he said, adding though that people appointed to certain positions had to realise the given tasks and that if they failed to do so, reassignment is justified.

The discussion also touched on the establishment of a task force on migrations, where, according to the information obtained by the inquiry, criminal police officers who dealt with open cases related to the ruling Democrats (SDS) were transferred.

Hojs said that the decision was made by the police commissioner, and that he himself helped prepare the material for its work, thus rejecting allegations that the task force had no responsibilities.

Asked whether NBI director Petra Grah Lazar had been appointed to the post at the request of the SDS and the relevant law changed to make her appointment possible, Hojs said it was the parliament that had passed the law, albeit on his proposal.

Regarding Grah Lazar’s alleged friendship with tax advisor Rok Snežič, he said he was interested in the results of the NBI, that the NBI director had made progress, and that he believed Grah Lazar applied the same standards to everyone.

Discussing the dismissal of Darko Muženič as the NBI director, the minister said that the court decision that the dismissal was unlawful was not yet final and so he could not execute it. He added, however, that “no one is irreplaceable”.

Regarding the 5 October protests, when the police in Ljubljana used large quantities of tear gas, Hojs admitted that some mistakes had been made, “but nothing critical”. He noted that more police officers than protesters had been injured.

He said that after the protest he visited the Security and Protection Centre together with Žan Mahnič, the secretary general for national security in the prime minister’s office, to “thank the boys”.

He said he had “calmed Mahnič down” when he raised his voice over the incident in which a foreign delegation visiting Slovenia at the time got stuck among the protesters. He categorically denied opposition Left MP Nataša Sukič’s claims that it was a deliberate incident.

The minister also noted that an analysis had shown irregularities in the police action against the Yellow Jackets neo-Nazi group at one of the protests. He added that he applied the same criteria “both for leftist and rightist extremists.”

Hojs argued that the had significantly improved the working conditions for police officers, both equipment- and salary-wise.

As for his controversial tweets, he said these were abused by leftists. When he wrote that police officers are “wimps”, this referred to their opposition to the recovered and vaccinated mandate in the police.

Hojs said that the police sometimes thought “that they are above the ministry”, and assessed that after two failed attempts to oust him in parliament, the parliamentary inquiry was intended to discredit him.

He thanked MPs for failing to adopt the resolutions from the inquiry’s interim report in the National Assembly, and added that the final report faced “the same debacle”.