Slovak prime minister Fico's health improving, government says

FILE PHOTO: Police officer with a dog inspect area around the F.D. Roosevelt University Hospital

(Reuters) - Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico's condition after an assassination attempt earlier this month is improving, the government and hospital said on Monday.

An attacker hit Fico with four bullets at short range when the prime minister greeted supporters at a government meeting in the central Slovak town of Handlova on May 15.

Fico, 59, was hit in the abdomen and was taken to a hospital in the regional capital of Banska Bystrica in serious condition. He underwent a more than a five-hour surgical operation immediately and another two days later.

He has been improving since, the F.D. Roosevelt University Hospital has said in daily updates, and examinations confirmed that on Monday.

"Based on the examination results, today's medical board meeting confirmed the gradual improvement of the Prime Minister's health condition," the government said without further details.

The attack, the first major assassination attempt on a European political leader for more than 20 years, underscored deep political divisions in Slovak society.

Police detained the attacker on the spot. Prosecutors later charged the man, identified as Juraj C., with premeditated murder, and a court ordered he be held in custody.

The 71-year old man told the court he had wanted to hurt, and not kill, the Slovak prime minister because he disagreed with government policies, and had used a gun he had owned for more than 30 years, a court document showed.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague, Editing by William Maclean)