Slovakia’s far-right leader sentenced to 4 years in prison

National News

FILE – In this Monday, April 29, 2019 file photo, Marian Kotleba, Chairman of the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia, walks to arrive at the Supreme Court in Bratislava, Slovakia, Saturday Feb. 29, 2020. The leader of a far-right party with seats in the Slovak parliament was convicted of illegal use of neo-Nazi symbols and sentenced to four years and four months in prison on Monday Oct. 12. 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — The leader of a far-right party with seats in the Slovak parliament was convicted of illegal use of neo-Nazi symbols and sentenced to four years and four months in prison on Monday.

Marian Kotleba, head of the People’s Party Our Slovakia, was standing trial after he presented three poor families with checks for 1,488 euros in 2017. The number 1,488 has a symbolic meaning for neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

The verdict isn’t final. Kotleba pleaded not guilty and can appeal the verdict issued by the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok. The country’s Supreme Court would decide on his appeal.

The extreme far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia, whose members use Nazi salutes and want Slovakia out of the European Union and NATO, was the fourth-most popular party in the country in February’s parliamentary elections with 8% support.

It has 17 seats in the 150-seat the Slovak Parliament and two seats in the European Parliament.

Kotleba and his party’s members openly back the legacy of the Nazi puppet state that Slovakia was during World War II.

The incident in 2017 took place on March 14, the anniversary of the Slovak wartime state’s establishment in 1939.

Last year, the Supreme Court dismissed a request by the country’s prosecutor general to ban Kotleba’s party.

In his request, Jaromir Ciznar said the People’s Party Our Slovakia is an extremist group whose activities violate the country’s constitution and its goal is to destroy the country’s democratic system.

But the court ruled that the prosecutor general failed to provide enough evidence for the ban.

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