Zitnanska: Anti-extremist Laws Abused by Some to Court Kotleba Voters

Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska (stock photo by TASR)

Bratislava, February 28 (TASR) – Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska (Most-Hid) is disturbed to witness an anti-extremist package of criminal legislation abused in a political struggle with an eye towards acquiring voters of Marian Kotleba’s far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), TASR learnt on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press briefing, Zitnanska was responding to a statement by Opposition Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) leader Richard Sulik, who called it a mistake for MPs of his party to lend their votes to anti-extremist legislation in Parliament in 2016. Sulik intends to rectify this by lodging a complaint with the Constitutional Court. Zitnanska views such a move as being purpose-built.

“Some politicians, including Sulik, apparently picked amendments to criminal codexes as a tool in their efforts to court Kotleba’s voters, and that’s detrimental,” said Zitnanska, who underlined that the anti-terrorism amendment is one of a few effective tools in the fight against the rise of extremism in Slovakia, and casting doubt on this only serves to portray extremists as martyrs.

The justice minister rejects attempts to paint the anti-extremist legislation in effect since the beginning of the year as something that tramples on the freedom of speech. “That’s simply not the case,” she stressed. Statements like the one made by Sulik only work to encourage more and more politicians to display tolerance towards hateful speech. “That contributes towards making hateful speech socially acceptable, and this mustn’t be the case because words come dangerously close to deeds.”

Zitnanska pointed out that the complaint filed with the Constitutional Court doesn’t apply to the amendment as a whole but only to selected parts of it that aren’t key. She added that two recent cases that have garnered significant media attention (the burning of a copy of the Quran by a 24-year-old woman and statements by far-right MP Stanislav Mizik criticising the choices made by President Andrej Kiska in bestowing state awards), which triggered criticism of the legislation from politicians, required neither the application of new paragraphs nor the parts challenged at the Constitutional Court.

“Whether or not the anti-extremist amendment was passed, both cases warranted prosecution … So, if Richard Sulik uses these two cases to justify his negative stance on the legislation, he’s either mistaken or proving himself to be ignorant,” she claimed.