Slovak trial of fascist party chair becoming protracted, he alleges the judge is biased
The trial of Marian Kotleba, the head of the fascist party in Slovakia called "Kotlebists - People's Party Our Slovakia" (LSNS) who has been charged with promoting Nazism by distributing checks featuring neo-Nazi symbolism while in public office, is apparently becoming protracted - during the opening hearing, Kotleba filed an objection alleging that the judge hearing the case is biased. She rejected that accusation and the Supreme Court must now decide the matter of the complaint against her.
Should he be found guilty, Kotleba faces imprisonment and the loss of his National Assembly seat. Historians have already testified in the case that the LSNS is a neo-Nazi party.
The filing of objections alleging judicial bias is not unusual in Slovakia. According to legal experts, the attorneys for defendants usually take advantage of the opportunity to file such complaints as an attempt to delay a trial.
Kotleba justified his objection to Judge Ružena Sabová by claiming to believe she will facilitate selective presentation of evidence and alleging she had communicated with an expert witness about augmenting his opinion. Judge Sabová, who is also the presiding judge over the panel ruling on the case of the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner, read her communication with the expert witness into the court record.
The recorded communications reveal that she just requested appendices. She then formally rejected the objection.
Kotleba then complained about that decision, which means the Supreme Court will decide the issue. Until the Supreme Court rules, Sabová is able to review just previously-obtained evidence during the ongoing trial, for example, interrogating previously-summoned witnesses, and is not allowed to pronounce a verdict.
The defense has proposed more evidence and new witnesses. Kotleba said he does not intend to attend the next hearing in July because the National Assembly will be in session.
The prosecutor has indicted him for using neo-Nazi symbolism on the symbolic checks he used to publicly present families with financial gifts in 2017 at a high school in Banská Bystrica in front of almost 4 000 invited guests. Each check was for the amount of EUR 1488.
The numbers "14" and "88" are, according to detectives, famously used in neo-Nazi symbolism, an interpretation confirmed to the court by the expert. The gifts were also publicly presented on the anniversary of the founding of the WWII-era Slovak State in 1939.
The LSNS espouses reviving that first Slovak Republic, which was a client state of Nazi Germany. Three historians have testified in court that in their expert opinion, the LSNS is the only significant neo-Nazi party in Slovakia.
Kotleba's response was to question their expertise. The LSNS, which also criticizes the EU, NATO, and inveighs against Romani people, won 8 % of the vote in February's parliamentary elections.
That outcome was the same as four years ago. The campaign slogans were about establishing "order" in the country and fighting "liberalism".
Sabová announced after the first hearing with Kotleba this year that it will be possible to assess the indictment according to a stricter provision of the Criminal Code than the prosecutor proposed. That would mean Kotleba would, if convicted, face up to eight years in prison and would lose his seat in the legislature.
Kotleba's previous defense was that detectves had "tendentiously" divided the amount of money on the checks into the numbers 14 and 88. The indictment is being reviewed by a Specialized Criminal Court that hears the most serious criminal cases, including ones involving extremist crimes.
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