Slovakia: Chair of neo-Nazi party indicted for using Nazi symbols on checks
Marian Kotleba, chair of the extremist, neo-Nazi, right-wing "People's Party Our Slovakia" (Ľudová strana Naše Slovensko - LSNS) is under indictment. Last year he gave checks bearing neo-Nazi symbols to three families in Banská Bystrica.
If convicted, Kotleba faces between six months and three years in prison. A specialized criminal court will review the case.
Kotleba is accused of displaying sympathy for a movement aiming to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms. The prosecutor bringing the indictment pointed to the Nazi symbolism of the numbers 14 and 88, which were placed next to each other in the amount of EUR 1 488 on the checks.
"In Banská Bystrica in 2017, in a school auditorium in front of almost 400 invited guests, he gave the three participating families a financial gift using symbolic checks for the sum of EUR 1 488. The numbers 14 and 88 are notoriously used as extremist symbols, and the combination of 14 and 88 in this public usage makes them (neo)Nazi, or rather, extremist symbols displaying sympathy for the Nazi racist ideology, which aims to suppress fundamental human rights and freedoms and espouses ethnic and racial hatred," Jana Tökölyová, spokesperson for the Office of the Special Prosecutor, told news server Pravda.sk.
The number 14 symbolizes the "Fourteen Words of David Lane", a right-wing terrorist whose slogan is comprised in English of the 14 words "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." The number 88 is a well-known symbol for "HH", where the letter "H" is the eighth in the alphabet and therefore represents an abbreviated form of the Nazi greeting "Heil Hitler".
Stanislav Mičev, the director of the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising, who is also an historian, said there is no doubt that the sum on the checks was Nazi symbolism. "It is absolutely unequivocal, everybody knows what '1488' means. Those symbols have been internationally used for many years. They will not be able to make the excuse that this was not intentional," he emphasized.
The museum director said representatives of Kotleba's political party have long used such symbolism. Most recently the extremist party wanted to screen an amateur film celebrating the Fascist Slovak State at a cinema in Poprad.
The screening was cancelled and police are investigating it. "They wanted to screen the film on 8 August - 8.8. They can make all the excuses they want as to why they chose that date, and the same goes for the double-armed cross they wear. The fact that the cross has two arms was not an accident, it was their intention. Nobody can convince me they did not know that was the insignia of the Hlinka Guard. They knew that, they just changed the color of it. These are unequivocal intentions, there's nothing to discuss. The LSNS need to send these signals to their neo-Nazi voters, and this is how they do it," the museum director said.
Kotleba's use of checks with such symbolism last year was not the first time he has done so. He also issued checks in that amount in 2015 and 2013.
He is also not the first person from his party to be indicted. In April the specialized criminal court found Milan Mazurek guilty of defamation.
Mazurek had been accused of defaming Romani people in a racist way on the radio. During his trial he attempted to cast doubt on the impartiality of the expert witness who testified against him by alleging that the expert was Jewish.
The LSNS member was fined EUR 5 000, a sentence that has yet to take effect because he has appealed. Daniel Milo, a Slovak expert on combating propaganda and on extremism, has noted that the situation with prosecuting extremist crimes has improved in recent years in Slovakia but the sentencing options available are rather weak.
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