Slovak Prosecutor says party head clearly used neo-Nazi symbolism so his followers would know his views
The chair of the right-wing opposition party "Kotlebovci-Lidová strana Naše Slovensko (LSNS)" (Kotlebites - People's Party Our Slovakia), Marian Kotleba, is on trial for distributing checks featuring allegedly extremist symbolism, and the prosecutor is seeking his imprisonment. Speaking on Monday during his concluding remarks before the first-instance court, the prosecutor recommended that punishment.
Should Kotleba be convicted he would also lose his seat in Parliament. He has testified that he is innocent.
The defense argued that no felony was committed in the case and proposed the politician be acquitted. The final statements will continue on 12 October, after which the court should announce its verdict.
The prosecutor has indicted Kotleba for the way in which he used large symbolic checks to give three local families financial gifts in 2017, an act performed before as many as 400 invited guests in the auditorium of a high school in Banská Bystrica. Each check was printed for the amount of EUR 1488.
The numbers "14" and "88" are, according to detectives, infamously used in right-wing extremist symbolism. The gift was made on the anniversary of the founding of the WWII-era Slovak State.
In those days, the country also referred to as the First Slovak Republic was a client state of Nazi Germany, and the LSNS espouses its legacy. "He used neo-Nazism symbolism in such a way that his supporters were in no doubt that he is a neo-Nazi and neo-fascist. This is a case of intentional behavior by the chair of a political party," the prosecutor said of the checks Kotleba awarded.
During the hearing, Kotleba, whose LSNS party won roughly 8 % of the vote in February, criticized the approach taken by detectives. He alleged they had tendentiously divided the sum of 1488 into the two numerals "14" and "88" and did not take the designation of the currency into account.
In his closing remarks, Kotleba's attorney Tomáš Rosina alleged mistakes of procedure had been committed during the trial that could violate his client's rights. He objected, for example, to the fact that one of the expert witness assessments was allegedly adjusted after submission, to the fact that an historian who testified was allegedly biased, and alleged that the interrogation of historians as witnesses had involved breaches of the law.
It was exactly an expert witness who, in his assessment, agreed with the prosecutor's opinion that the numerals "14" and "88" are infamously used as right-wing extremist symbolism. The judge, according to Rosina, had also allegedly illegally interfered with both the discovery of evidence and with the questioning of witnesses.
In October the closing arguments should be made by another attorney representing Kotleba and by the defendant himself. During Monday's trial the prosecutor testified that the number "14" as used by Kotleba is a reference to the number of words in an English-language sentence authored by the American right-wing terrorist David Lane ("We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.").
As for the number 8, when used this way it is meant to represent the eighth letter of the alphabet, which is "H", and "88" or "HH", is considered to be the abbreviated form of the Nazi greeting "Heil Hitler". The expert witness had previously testified that on the extremist scene the cipher "14" is used in the context of racism, while the figure "88" references the Nazi greeting.
The judge had previously announced that it will be possible to assess the indictment against Kotleba according to a stricter provision of the Criminal Code than the prosecutor initially proposed. In his closing remarks, the prosecutor agreed with that option and proposed that the court convict Kotleba of felony establishment, promotion and support of a movement aiming to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms and hand down a sentence on the milder side.
Guidelines call for a person convicted of such a crime to be sentenced to anywhere between four and eight years in prison. According to the original indictment on lesser charges, Kotleba had faced three years in prison at the most.
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