IN AUGUST 1995 Michal Kovac Jr, whose father was president of newly independent Slovakia, was stopped in his car by armed men who handcuffed him, forced him to drink two bottles of whisky and began driving him to an unknown destination. When he tried to jump out of the car, they beat him and shocked him with a stun gun. The 34-year-old Mr Kovac woke up in Austria, where police arrested him in connection with a German financial probe. They said they had been tipped off to his whereabouts by a Slovak informant. An Austrian court soon released him because of the illegal manner of his detainment. He was never charged.

Slovak police and justice officials investigating the kidnapping were frustrated when a key witness went into hiding and his police contact was killed with a car-bomb. Still, they managed to prepare an indictment, which was later leaked. It pinned the crime on private thugs hired by the Slovak secret services (SIS), whose head, Ivan Lexa, was the right-hand man of Vladimir Meciar, the prime minister at the time. The senior Mr Kovac was a political opponent of Mr Meciar’s. But before charges could be brought, Mr Meciar passed an amnesty law that buried the case.

Mr Meciar has spent the past few years in quiet retirement at his mansion, christened “Elektra”. But on March 2nd a docudrama about the case, “Unos” (“Kidnapping”), opened in Slovakia, putting the old case back in the headlines. Mr Meciar felt obliged to appear on television to defend himself. Polls showed that 63% of Slovaks favoured revoking the amnesty law, and on March 13th Robert Fico, the current prime minister, announced that he would do so.

Mr Fico faces declining approval, especially among young voters. He may be defending himself against any appearance of complicity; his first government, in 2006, included Mr Meciar’s party. But he is also being pushed by popular anger at corruption, as the popularity of “Unos” shows. “Politicians should know that crime and wrongdoing can be punished, even after such a long time,” says Milan Stranava, the film’s producer. Any punishment will come too late for the elder Mr Kovac. He died in October 2016.