Slovakian police—acting under government orders—have charged Marian Kotleba, leader of Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia party and Governor of Banská Bystrica Region with “promoting extremism” because he handed over checks in public to poor families made out to an amount of €1,488—a figure which the authorities claim was deliberately chosen to resemble the well-known “14 words” and “Heil Hitler” monikers.
According to Slovak news sources, the check-handing ceremony took place in March this year, that is, more than four months ago, making it obvious that the charges are politically motivated.
Nonetheless, a police spokesman said last week that they “can confirm that ion July 20, the investigator of the National Criminal Investigative Agency, the Presidium of the Police Force, laid charges relating to expressing sympathy for a movement aimed at suppressing the fundamental rights and freedoms under Section 422, 1 of the Criminal Code.”
The charges stem from a charity event Kotleba’s party organized in March. At the conclusion of the event, Kotleba handed out three larger-than-life cheques for 1,488 euros ($1,748).
“I can confirm that this Member of Parliament was accused in connection with the cheques for 1,488 euros,” interior ministry spokesman Ivan Netik told media.
Kotleba faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
The “14 words” is a slogan originally penned by famous American militant David Lane, and reads “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The 88 is short for “Heil Hitler”—“H” being the eighth letter of the alphabet.
In addition to holding the provincial governorship, Kotleba is also a member of parliament. His party won 14 seats in the 150-seat Slovak parliament last year after winning 8 percent of the vote. Support has since risen to about 10 percent, according to opinion polls.
Fearful at the growing popularity of Kotleba’s party, in May this year, prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to ban his party. The latest arrest clearly forms part of that ongoing campaign.
In his reaction, Kotleba told journalists that the “police have adopted double standards in treating the Prime Minister and the opposition,” referring to an earlier statement by Leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico that “Hitler had a good economic program.”
Fico has been also criticized by human rights groups and socialist colleagues in the European Parliament for stirring anti-Gypsy sentiment and for refusing to accept the EU quotas on accepting the fake refugee invasion, saying in a May 2016 interview “there is no space for Islam in Slovakia”.