Slovakia: Police arrest neo-Nazis in Nitra, investigative delays to be reviewed
News server SME.sk reports that yesterday evening, police in Nitra finally arrested five neo-Nazis whose brutal assault on the defenseless customers of the Mariatchi student bar was captured by municipal police cameras last year. The video footage of the brutal assault was made public and media began to report on the case, apparently speeding up the police investigation.
"We have jailed them and we will probably request they be remanded into custody," Police President Tibor Gašpar told the daily SME. Police will probably also be arresting three perpetrators of another, similar attack.
The assault last October was not the only conflict started by neo-Nazis at the Mariatchi. Right-wing extremists have opened up a business across the street called Walhala (Valhalla), which is licensed as a members-only card club.
Members of the club gather there on Saturdays. Radovan Richtárik, owner of the Mariatchi, says there have been times when the neo-Nazis have caused problems on a weekly basis, making threats, kicking in doors, and smashing windows.
The attacks against the bar are not random, as the neo-Nazis are aware that Richtárik is an activist with the People against Racism (Lidé proti rasismu) initiative. Students in particular are regular customers there - "People with dreadlocks come here, which also bothers [the neo-Nazis]," Richtárik has said.
The identities of the perpetrators of the October attack were known to the police in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but police have been incapable of filing charges against them until now. Rioting has continued ever since, and Gašpar said yesterday that he will be investigating whether police have been neglecting their investigations of these incidents.
Banská Bystrica Regional Governor Marian Kotleba has not made a statement about the investigation yet. The assailants are connected to his political party.
Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák (Smer) also did not want to comment on the situation yesterday, saying he is not in the habit of intervening in the work of the police. "I can only say what I have always said, which is that we have zero tolerance for such cases," the minister stated.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico would also not provide a more concrete statement. The National Security Committee of the Slovak Parliament will be investigating the scandal.
News server SME.sk has also reported that the attackers are linked to people working in Kotleba's LS-NS party. Kotleba, however, is staying silent.
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Miroslav Belička, spokesperson for the Banská Bystrica Region, when asked about the connection between the neo-Nazis and the governor's party. The Slovak press agency MVK has reported that Kotleba's party has recently enjoyed so much support from Slovak voters (7.6 % of the vote according to public opinion polls) that it stands of chance of getting into parliament for the first time ever.
Doctors say injuries were life-threatening
News server SME.sk reports that police have given several different versions of why their investigations into the repeated neo-Nazi assaults have proceeded so slowly. Yesterday Gašpar said the police had to wait for expert testimony before bringing charges against the suspects.
Gašpar said the victims' injuries had been assessed by doctors as requiring seven days or less of treatment, which does not meet the definition of grievous bodily harm. On Monday, however, local police in Nitra confirmed reports that the injuries of some of the victims had required as much as six weeks of treatment.
The victims of the brutal assaults have also confirmed the seriousness of their injuries. Peter Kováč, a lawyer and a physician, has even admitted that the attack could have been fatal.
"This was an assault which could have killed the victims if things had taken a turn for the worse," Kováč, who has seen the video footage of the attack, said of its possible consequences. The repercussions of such violence need not be solely physical, but can also be psychological.
Police immediately apprehended, then released the perpetrators
The incident in October was captured by a municipal police camera in such detail that it was possible to see the faces of the assailants and determine their identities. "The worker on duty immediately dispatched patrols who were on the scene just after the incident began. They arrested the perpetrators and took them to the station," Mayor of Nitra Jozef Dvonč (Smer) says.
The mayor says the investigation then became a state police matter. However, despite the number of attacks committed by the right-wing extremists, the town hall does not consider them particularly dangerous.
"We will increase patrols in the town center," Dvonč says. "We will also be making use of all the forces available to us to eliminate such phenomena."
Will it end with the broken leg?
Gašpar claims the leadership of the police in Nitra have his complete trust. Police are conducting two independent criminal investigations, one into the October assault and one into an assault on New Year's Day.
There are five suspects involved in the October case and three involved in the New Year's one, but the attackers are different in both incidents. Police officers do not have video footage of the New Year's incident, as it took place elsewhere.
"The identification proceeded such that we had determined their specific identities by 21 January," news server SME.sk quotes Gašpar as saying. Richtárik's leg was broken in that incident and he had to undergo an operation.
The Attorney General's office has also begun to take in interest in the investigations, and Deputy Attorney General Peter Šufliarský has instructed the prosecutor's office in Nitra to report to him on the state of the criminal proceedings. "On the basis of that report, a decision about further legal measures will be taken," spokesperson Andrea Predajňová said.
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