Bratislava, April 5 (TASR) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday handed down a suspended sentence of six months with probation of 18 months to far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia chair Marian Kotleba for using neo-Nazi symbolism when issuing cheques worth €1,488.
The verdict is final and cannot be appealed against.
The appellate court overrode the original verdict of the Specialised Criminal Court from October 2020, which sentenced Kotleba to four years and four months in prison. Kotleba was found guilty of expressing sympathies to a movement suppressing basic rights and freedoms.
Kotleba gifted three families with controversial cheques worth €1,488 on March 14, 2017, a day marking the anniversary of the founding of the WWII fascist Slovak state that served as a satellite of Nazi Germany. Experts confirmed before the court that the numbers 14 and 88 are international codes used by neo-Nazis and the extreme far right.
Supreme Court appellate senate chair Pavol Farkas underlined not only the neo-Nazi symbolism of the numbers 14 and 88, but also the date when the cheques were given. According to the court, Kotleba “was thus celebrating the founding of the Slovak state based also on principles of fascism and Nazism”.
Unlike the Specialised Criminal Court, however, the Supreme Court didn’t come to the conclusion that Kotleba had been promoting the ideologies in question. “Such a behaviour hasn’t been reliably proven beyond any shadow of a doubt,” added Farkas. He pointed out that Kotleba had committed the crime while holding the posts of LSNS chairman and Banska Bystrica regional governor.
Kotleba has lost his seat in Parliament as a result of a valid conviction for an intentional crime, according to the statements of both the prosecutor and the lawyer. Via Iuris also pointed this out, however, the parliamentary mandate and immunity committee has not yet confirmed the loss of the seat.
Convicted MP Marian Kotleba (LSNS) is to be replaced by Slavena Vorobelova following the loss of his mandate, LSNS spokesperson and MP Martin Belusky confirmed to TASR on Tuesday. Kotleba will lose his parliamentary seat over being found guilty of a deliberate crime.
President Zuzana Caputova will delay her assessment of the verdict against far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) head Marian Kotleba until the publication of its reasons, TASR was told by spokesman for the head of state Martin Strizinec on Tuesday. “It’s important that a milder verdict in this case is not a greater encouragement for supporters of extremism than for the society that needs to be protected from extremism,” said Strizinec, adding that the reasons that led the Supreme Court to reclassify the crime to a more lenient form will be important for deciding on hate crimes.
Kotleba stated in response that the aim of the trial in the cheques case was to deprive him of his seat in Parliament. The role of the system was fulfilled, he responded to Tuesday’s verdict of the Supreme Court, which found him guilty. “We have a verdict on behalf of the Slovak Republic. An 18-month probation for helping poor families. In reality, however, the punishment is completely different – the loss of a seat in Parliament,” commented Kotleba, adding that this was the aim all the time. He also announced a comprehensive assessment of his case in the coming days.