Slovak media and NGOs welcome conviction of right-wing extremist
Marian Kotleba, the head of the ultra-right opposition party "Followers of Kotleba - People's Party Our Slovakia" (LSNS) has been convicted after many years of promoting an ideology involving the suppression of human rights and freedoms and it is high time the courts begin prosecuting such extremism, according to several newspapers and NGOs in Slovakia responding to Monday's verdict by a first-instance court sentencing Kotleba for organizing an event during which he gave donations in the amount of EUR 1488 to three families using novelty checks. The court agreed with the prosecution's case that Kotleba had intentionally used the numbers 14 and 88, which according to detectives are known and used as extremist symbols.
"This verdict confirms not just what we have been saying, but what other organizations and activists have been saying for years: Marian Kotleba is a neo-Nazi," said the head of the Human Rights Institute (Inštitút ľudských práv - IĽP) Peter Weisenbacher. The Post Bellum SK organization also expressed its delight at the news that extremism is finally being prosecuted in Slovakia.
The IĽP called on the Prosecutor-General to file a new motion to dissolve Kotleba's party; the Slovak Supreme Court rejected a previous motion in the spring of 2019. A new Prosecutor-General is slated to be appointed by the national legislature by the end of this year.
According to the former Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, the public should not cast doubt on court decisions in general. "If we want to build faith in state institutions and the justice system in Slovakia, then we must learn it is necessary to respect court decisions irrespective of whether they correspond to public opinion," he said; his new party HLAS – sociálna demokracia (Voice-Social Democracy) is the second most popular in the country according to opinion polls.
The daily newspaper Sme wrote that Kotleba has long promoted an ideology aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms, calling the verdict a message for all the politicians who see him as a possible partner. "The court was quite clear: Kotleba broke the laws of this country in the name of an ideology that is incompatible with democracy," the paper wrote.
The newspaper Denník N wrote that: "Numbers without symbolic meaning are just facts. Numbers with generally-known symbolic meaning in context are code, 1488 is an example of exactly that."
According to Denník N, Kotleba has been testing the limits of his freedom ever since he became the leader of the "Slovak Solidarity-National Party" (Slovenské pospolitosti-Národní strany). That party was dissolved in 2006 by the Supreme Court.
Kotleba is appealing the first-instance verdict, which sentenced him to four years and four months in prison. If the Supreme Court upholds the verdict he will lose his seat in the national legislature.
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