Slovakia: Criminal charges filed against play about neo-Nazi arson attack in Czech Republic
The Slovak National Theater (SND) has produced a play for students about the 2009 arson attack committed in Vítkov, Opava district, Czech Republic as an example of extremism, but after seeing the performance at a high school this month, its critics have reported it to the police for the suspected crime of defamation on the basis of nationality, political convictions or race. SND has responded by saying those who reported the play to police are attempting to intimidate teachers into not inviting the theater to schools.
The 2009 racially motivated arson attack in Vítkov is the most infamous case of its kind in the Czech Republic. Four right-wing extremists were convicted of throwing three Molotov cocktails into a single-family home inhabited by Romani people and were sentenced to between 20 and 22 years in prison.
Three people were physically harmed by the attack, with a two-year-old child the most seriously injured. SND has named its program after that youngest victim and created it in response to post-election developments in Slovakia, which now has people with extremist opinions seated in the legislature. The documentary theater project is called "Natálka" and is the first of two SND projects, the aim of which is, together with student debates, to draw attention to dangerous opinions in Slovak society.
The authors have engaged Slovak actor Judit Bárdosová, who acted in the film "Fair Play", about state-organized doping among athletes during the 1980s in the former Czechoslovakia, to perform in the play. After the theater staged the production at a school in the town of Pezinok near the capital, Bratislava, the Slovak Prosecutor-General received at least two reports of a crime in relation to the project.
One of was filed by Anton Čulen, the failed candidate proposed by the ultra-right "Kotleba-People's Party Our Slovakia" (Kotleba- Lidová strana Naše Slovensko - LSNS) party for the post of Public Defender of Rights. Čulen's motion, which he published online, stated that the performance involves a masked figure writing "To the gas chambers" on a blackboard and drawing a Nazi swastika, and that a Nazi swastika is superimposed on a statue of the Virgin Mary as a religious symbol.
Čulen has asked the Prosecutor-General to investigate whether a crime has been committed by these actions. "The aim of the project is to create room for considering what love and tolerance toward those around us are. If somebody has filed a motion with the Prosecutor- General, that is an attempted to discredit and stop this performace," the SND responded in a statement.
The SND said it believes the critics' aim is to prevent the performace from being seen by young people. The LSNS has long defined itself mainly as opposed to Romani people in Slovakia.
The head of the party, now the Governor of the Banská Bystrica Region, Marian Kotleba, has organized anti-Romani marches in the past. LSNS surprisingly succeeded in last year's Parliamentary elections, winning 14 seats in the 150-member legislature.
Kotleba has drawn attention as Governor after refusing to sign his approval on a subsidy for a cultural project about extremism. Last year he ordered the early closure of a theater performance produced by a smaller ensemble, allegedly because he didn't like its use of indecent expressions.
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