STA, 16 June 2019 - A Maribor district judge was severely injured in an attack in the wee hours on Sunday in an incident that the police said were investigating as a suspected attempted murder.
Head of Maribor crime investigators, Andrej Kolbl, confirmed that the victim was Daniela Ružić, a judge at the corporate crime department of the Maribor District Court.
"Her condition is stable and not life threatening," Kolbl told reporters in Maribor after earlier reports described the judge's condition as critical.
He confirmed that the judge was ambushed and attacked by an unidentified attacker or attackers in front of her house in the vicinity of Maribor.
She was injured severely with an object, Kolbl said, but would not say what type of object it was, citing interests of the investigation.
The motive of the attack remains unclear. "The investigation is being conducted in several directions to establish the possible motive, which could be linked to the judge's work or her private life," said Kolbl.
He repeated the appeal to potential eyewitnesses or anyone that would have any information regarding the attack to come forward.
"The police are handling the attack on the judge very seriously," the chief inspector said, adding that inquiries were being conducted in cooperation with the District Court, National Forensic Laboratory and Institute of Forensic Medicine to find the perpetrators.
The police were notified of the attack at about 1.15am this morning. Police and paramedics arrived at the scene, as well as an investigating judge and state prosecutor.
After being given emergency aid, the judge was taken to the UKC Maribor hospital, where she is being treated.
Ružič has been responsible for several high-profile cases, including the damages suit brought by Bank Assets Management Bank against the former management of the bank Probanka.
She also presided over the case brought by Iskra Sistemi against the Maribor city for rescinding the contract for the infamous Maribor speed traps, and damages suits against Austria's power utility Verbund over the 2012 flood damage.
The brutal attack has been condemned in the strongest terms by the judiciary, the Justice Ministry and political officials, all of whom wished the judge a speedy recovery.
Supreme Court President Damijan Florjančič and President of the Maribor District Court issued a joint statement expressing shock and indignation at the "brutal attack at our colleague".
"We wonder whether this violent outburst may be a consequence of developments in recent years as disrespect of the judicial office and unwarranted verbal attacks against the judiciary have become commonplace," they said.
Constitutional Court President Rajko Knez said the outrageous attack called for a swift response by law enforcement authorities, and a clear message from political authorities that the judiciary cannot be intimidated and that such a development of society will not be tolerated.
"Attacks on judges are unacceptable from the aspect of the victim and her relatives, and from the aspect of society as a whole," said Knez, adding that the judiciary's role in society is underrated.
The Slovenian Judges' Association underscored that "physical violence was a grave attack on the rule of law and the judiciary's independence", warning that any verbal threats against judges should be taken seriously.
The Justice Ministry called for zero tolerance to any violence, either verbal or physical, and emphasized the importance of judges and other members of the judiciary in defending the rule of law.
"Judicial officials and staff are subject daily to risks and danger, which is why we seek to ensure all the appropriate conditions to perform their important functions", reads a release from the ministry.
"Appalling and unacceptable. The perpetrators deserve the harshest punishment! We cannot let judges be intimidated ... Law and justice are above force," tweeted National Council President Alojz Kovšca.
Foreign Minister Miro Cerar posted a tweet expressing shock and indignation at the attack, underscoring that the rule of law and independent judiciary are key to society's democracy and development.
Maribor Mayor Saša Arsenovič urged "sharp measures in response to criminal mafia rings in the city", pledging to continue unwavering in honouring his commitment to restore Maribor as a city of non-violence and tolerance.
The attack was also condemned by party officials, including the leader of the opposition Democrats (SDS), Janez Janša, representatives of the Social Democrats (SD) and New Slovenia (NSi).
Slovenian judges have been targets of attacks before. In September 1996, a bomb exploded outside the home of the then Maribor judge Konrad Rebernik, gravely injuring his wife. The attack was linked to his work.
Anton Panjan, now serving as the president of the Ljubljana Higher Court, was attacked with a firearm at his Črnomelj home in 2002 when he served as a Novo Mesto district judge.
An explosive device also blew up in front of the Radovljica home of Ljubljana District Court judge Katarina Turk Lukan in November 2009, injuring one of her underage daughters. That attack was allegedly linked to the judge's work as well.