Slovak Far-Right Party Leader Indicted for Promoting Nazism

(Bloomberg) -- Slovak prosecutors indicted far-right leader Marian Kotleba for promoting racism and Nazi ideology, as the European Union member state witnesses a surge in populist, anti-immigrant political forces.

Kotleba, a lawmaker and the chairman of the People’s Party, was indicted after sponsoring an event last year during which he gave a charity a check for 1,488 euros, a number that refers to a slogan used by white supremacists. He thus “expressed sympathy toward racist and Nazi ideology,” prosecutor spokeswoman Jana Tokolyova said by email on Friday.

Extremist parties have been on the rise across Europe, taking advantage of anti-immigrant sentiment and an inability of traditional parties to raise living standards. Slovakia, a former communist nation which joined the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004, has stepped up efforts to confront extremism and hate speech following the unexpected entry of the People’s Party into parliament last year.

The party, whose lawmakers celebrate Slovakia’s World War II Nazi regime and once wore military uniforms reminiscent of that time in public, won 8 percent of the vote in 2016 elections. With a platform that seeks Slovakia’s exit from the EU and NATO, it was the fifth most popular party in June with 9.7 percent support, according to a poll conducted by Focus Research.

If convicted, Kotleba, a 41 year-old former high-school teacher, can face several years in prison, which would strip him of his parliamentary mandate. Earlier this year, two lawmakers from his party were tried for hate speech. One was sentenced with a fine while the other was acquitted. In a still pending case, the country’s chief prosecutor last year proposed dissolving the party.

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