News Briefs

Charges laid over Tiso memorial plaque
US State Dept. says human rights improving
Vášáryová selected as Ambassador to Poland
German court halts prosecution of Kováč Jr.
Slovak politicians comment on Haider resignation

Charges laid over Tiso memorial plaque

Slovak Attorney General Milan Hanzel has laid more than 10 charges in relation to the February 17 decision of Žilina City Hall to dedicate an official plaque to Jozef Tiso, the leader of Slovakia's World War II Nazi-puppet state. The charges were laid under paragraph 261 of the Criminal Code, which forbids "public displays of sympathy with fascism or similar movements."
The plaque is scheduled to be mounted on the wall of a Catholic convent in Žilina on March 14. Similar plaques honoring Tiso are to be found in the towns of Bytča, Oščadnica and Rajec, while a bust is located in Čakajovce.

US State Dept. says human rights improving

According to the year 2000 Annual Human Rights Report released February 26 by the US State Department, Slovakia saw an improvement in human rights in 1999. But while praising the country for settling several cases of abuse of power under the former government of Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, the report added that several 'problem areas' remained.
Deputy Prime Minister for Human and Minority Rights Pál Csáky, a member of the governing Hungarian Coalition Party, was praised for his work with minority and religious leaders. However, he was also accused of preferring problems facing the Hungarian minority over those facing the Roma minority.
The Roma faced continued discrimination in 1999, the report stated, while the police often failed to provide adequate protection and investigations of crime. Skinhead attacks on Roma also increased, although none were fatal.
The report stated that the Hungarian minority faced continued persecution in 1999, particularly in areas with a low Hungarian population.

Vášáryová selected as Ambassador to Poland

Former actress, onetime Czechoslovak Ambassador to Austria and 1999 Slovak Presidential candidate Magda Vášáryová was selected as the new Ambassador to Poland on February 24, reported Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel. Vášáryová had been working as the director of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association. She will replace Ondrej Nemčok, a former Deputy Education Minister under the Mečiar government.
Vášáryová is expected to intensify bilateral relations and to improve the efficiency of the Slovak embassy in Warsaw.
"It is important to us that our relations with Poland are very good because Poland is a partner [Visegrad 4] country, a member of NATO, and a country negotiating membership with the European Union," Gandel said.
He added that Vášáryová met the necessary criteria for the position because she had already worked as a diplomat and because she speaks eight foreign languages.

German court halts prosecution of Kováč Jr.

A regional court in Munich, Germany, halted the criminal prosecution of Michal Kováč Jr., the son of former Slovak President Michal Kováč, in the case of fraud committed against Technopol, a Slovak foreign trade company. "This decision is valid, and it cannot be appealed," said Kováč Jr.'s lawyer Ján Havlát for the Sme daily.
Slovak Television (STV) reported that the court had decided to drop the charges on grounds of lack of evidence. The only evidence against Kováč Jr. was the testimony of Peter Krylov, a Czechoslovak immigrant who was arrested for his part in the fraud and who gave testimony incriminating Kováč Jr. after being arrested.
German authorities first issued an international warrant for Kováč Jr. in November 1994. Kováč Jr. was then abducted from Bratislava in August 1995, smuggled across the Austrian border and dumped outside a police station after being tied, beaten and forced to drink two bottles of hard alcohol. Kováč Jr. spent six months in Austrian custody before being released after a verdict of the Higher Regional Court in Vienna, which ruled that his human rights had been violated.
President Michal Kováč publicly proclaimed that his son had been abducted by Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) officers, and accused then-SIS Director Ivan Lexa of organising the crime. Former SIS agent Oskar Fegyveres testified that the abduction had occurred with the knowledge of then Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar.
The Interior Ministry is currently investigating the case, despite pardons granted by Mečiar in 1998 to anyone ever found to be involved in the kidnapping. Jaroslav Ivor, the Interior Ministry's chief investigator, told Sme that Mečiar's activities regarding the abduction would continue to be investigated.

Slovak politicians comment on Haider resignation

The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry said on February 29 that despite the decision of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party (FPO) leader Jörg Haider to resign from the government, Slovakia would continue to monitor the activities of the Austrian government and its attitudes towards the international community.
Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel said it would be important to continue watching the situation because Haider will still be involved in Austrian politics as FPO leader and as the Governor of the province of Corinthia.
Béla Bugár, chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party, said Haider had helped Austria because his resignation was a step forward for the country. However, Bugár did not rule out the possibility that the resignation had ulterior motives, adding that several of Haider's critics claim the move was aimed at helping him become Chancellor in the future.
Peter Weiss, a member of the Party of the Democratic Left and a member of the Parliamentary Foreign Committee, said Haider's statements and political style had harmed Austria.
Weiss warned that the public's rejection of Haider's anti-foreigner stance and his statements concerning Hitler's Nazi regime should be a lesson to Slovak populist politicians "attempting a return to power."

Compiled by Chris Togneri from SITA and press reports

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