Slovakia jails neo-nazi leader Marian Kotleba

After using a well known nazi symbol, Kotleba was found guilty of promoting an ideological movement which suppresses civil rights and democracy.

marian kotleba slovakia
Leader of People's Party Our Slovakia (LS NS), Marian Kotleba often wears uniform inspired by Nazi-sponsored Slovak State | Courtesy Hate Speech International

Leading far right leader and the head of the People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), Marian Kotleba was sentenced to four years and four months in prison by a Special Court in Slovakia. After using a well known nazi symbol, Kotleba was found guilty of promoting an ideological movement which suppresses civil rights and democracy.

Background of the Case

In 2017, the LSNS party organised an event to commemorate the anniversary of the wartime fascist Slovak State (1939-1945). During the event, Kotleba handed out checks of 1,488 euros to families of handicapped children. The numbers “14” and “88” are well known Neo-Nazi symbols coined by white supremacist David Lane; 14 refers to the “14 Words” slogan (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”) and 88 refers to the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler” (H is the 8th letter of the alphabet).

The court accepted the Prosecutor Tomas Honz’s argument that the racist references were intentional. Denying the charges, Kotleba told the court that he was not aware that he was committing a crime. However, during the event, Kotleba and his colleagues seemed to admit to the media that they were aware of the implications.

Honz admitted that he was “moved” by the verdict, and flashed a “V” sign for victory. He stated:

“15 years after banning the Slovak Togetherness – National Party, Slovak Republic has finally achieved the conviction of a leading representative of extremism in Slovakia,”

A Neo-Nazi History

Kotleba first came into the public eye for partaking in a neo-nazi march

Kotleba is a former governor of the Banaska Bystrica region, and first came into the public eye in 2005 for hosting torchlit march, and is known for organizing marches in which his party’s members wear neo-Nazi uniforms. When he was elected in 2013, he used to praise the Slovak nazi puppet and enjoyed dressing up as the Slovak Army, which helped round up thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. In 2016, he attended an extreme-right march in Bratislava, and wished those present “a happy White day”. In the past, he was accused of hate speech, but never convicted.

The ĽSNS identifies itself as a political party based on national and Christian values. It is classified as fascist by politicians, academics and the media. Many members of the party, including Kotleba, have connections to extremist movements such as the Slovak Brotherhood. The party’s main mobilisation efforts are against the Romani population. It describes them as “asocial parasites” who abuse the welfare system and as the source of crime. The party also praises Jozef Tiso, the president of the nazi-puppet Slovak State, and once requested a minute of silence for him.

Despite openly backing the legacy of the Nazi puppet state and its leader Tiso, they were the 4th most popular party in February’s parliamentary elections, with 8% support. LSNS has 17 seats in the 150-seat the Slovak Parliament and two seats in the European Parliament.

In 2018, the country’s top court decided against banning the LSNS. The Slovakian judiciary has been repeatedly criticized for not taking enough action against right wing extremism. This is the first time a court in Slovakia sentenced a member of parliament to prison. The move has been celebrated by Slovak media and critics.

Related: Greece: Neo-nazi leaders of Golden Dawn party sentenced to 13 years prison! 

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