The leader of the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia, has been convicted of using neo-Nazi symbols, which is illegal in the country. He has been sentenced to four years and four months in prison.
Marian Kotleba stood trial after presenting three disadvantaged families with cheques for €1,488 on 14th March 2017. The number is numerically symbolic for neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and the date is the anniversary of the wartime puppet state established in 1939.
The People’s Party Our Slovakia is the fourth most popular party in Slovakia, with 8% support in February’s parliamentary elections. It currently has seventeen seats in the 150-seat Slovak Parliament and two seats in the European Parliament. The Party’s members, including Mr Kotleba, openly advocate the legacy of the historical Nazi presence in Slovakia and commonly greet one another with Nazi salutes.
In 2016 the party celebrated the 129th anniversary of the birth of Jozef Tiso, who served as Slovakia’s President during the War. During his presidency, approximately 60,000 Slovak Jews were transported to Nazi death camps. His involvement led to his sentence for death and hanging in 1947.
Many rights activists and members of the country’s Jewish community have signed petitions for the banning of the Party.
Last year, the country’s Supreme Court dismissed a request made by Slovakia’s Prosecutor-General, to ban the far-right Party. He argued that the Party’s activities violate Slovakia’s constitution and seek to destroy the existing democratic system, however the court ruled there was insufficient evidence to impose a ban.
The far-right leader pleaded not guilty to the 2017 offence and therefore may appeal the verdict, which was handed down by the Specialised Criminal Court in Pezinok. If an appeal is submitted, the case would move to Slovakia’s Supreme Court.