Leader of the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia Marian Kotleba is facing charges in connection with handing out cheques with extremist symbolism. For decades, the fight against far-right extremism in Slovakia has been largely carried out by civil society and the media. Over the past three years, however, the police and prosecution service have charged hundreds of people, including Marian Kotleba, with extremist crimes. (…) Yet the individual, systematic work of law enforcement in Slovakia tells a different story. Ignoring changes in government or political pressure, the National Criminal Agency (NAKA) over the past three years has launched investigations into not just “regular” neo-Nazis spreading hate speech on the internet, but also into the top figures in Slovakia’s neo-Nazi scene, including key members of Kotleba’s party. Since 2019, at least four LSNS MPs, including Kotleba himself, have been charged with extremist crimes. And this month, a well-known neo-Nazi musician who once ran for office in Kotleba’s party, was charged with disseminating extremist materials.
Criminal reform. While the populist government led by Robert Fico and his SMER-SD promised in 2016 to “build a wall against extremism”, when Kotleba’s party entered parliament that year it was activists and civil society who actually did most of the heavy lifting in the fight. Behind the scenes, however, Fico’s minister of justice, Lucia Zitnanska, from the Hungarian minority party Most-Hid, passed an important piece of legislation that paved the way for a concrete change in how the country prosecutes extremist crimes. She created a special unit at NAKA, under the auspices of a special prosecutor and special court, to look into extremist crimes, uniting under one roof hate crime investigations which until then had been scattered across the legal system and consequently often never went anywhere. And in recent years, this relatively small, but significant reform has borne fruit.
On August 11, NAKA carried out raids and arrested nine people, accusing them of forming an organised group to disseminate extremist materials. “The charged parties are accused of producing music albums with extremist topics,” the Slovak Police Force (SPF) said in a statement following the raids. Among those arrested, one name stood out – Rastislav Rogel, the well-known singer of a neo-Nazi band called Kratky proces (Short process), who ran in the 2016 parliamentary elections for Kotleba’s LSNS under the symbolic number 44. According to experts, the code is used by neo-Nazis as a reference to the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler”. H is the eighth number in the alphabet, so the initials of the salute stand for number 88. Neo-Nazis tend to use 44 as a less obvious reference. Although Rogel’s activities have been well documented for over 30 years, law enforcement had never found a way to actually charge him with extremism – until now. Although the defendants were released on bail, the sheer volume of extremist materials gathered by the police suggests that this time Rogel might not get off so easily. “These guys have been the icons of the neo-Nazi scene in Slovakia since the 1990s,” said Irena Bihariova, a lawyer focusing on extremist crimes and a leader of the Progressive Slovakia party. As a former director of People Against Racism, an NGO promoting tolerance towards minorities, Bihariova published a report on Rogel back in 2002. The vast collection of evidence that she handed over to the police, however, was lost. Twice. “They thought that no one cared about them anymore,” she said of the accused. “Of course, it also shows how insensitive we as a society are to these things,” she said, referring to attacks on minorities or outright anti-Semitism.

via balkaninsight: Slovak Authorities Start to Clip Wings of Far-Right