Extremist sentenced to conditional sentence for Facebook racism

The first case of a staunch adult hater who spread racist opinions on Facebook ends after two appeals, with a two-year conditional sentence.

Courtroom, illustrative stock photoCourtroom, illustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

The life story of Rudolf Steigauf of Revúca is a text-book example and could serve in a manual of the Interior Ministry on rightist extremism, the Denník N wrote. He hates Roma, Hungarians, refugees, as well as Zionists or all Jews in general. He opines, according to the daily, that parliamentary liberal democracy is not suitable, and needs to be replaced by a system of government designed, but not fully applied in fact, by Vojtech Tuka during the Slovak State during the World War II. Steigauf’s role models are Andrej Hlinka and Jozef Tiso, he greets others with the wartime-state Nazi guards’ Na stráž! And he wears slogans of the Slovak State, as well as badges with its top officials. (Before entering the courtroom, he hid the badges.)

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On February 1, Rudolf Steigauf was sentenced for limiting rights, racial and ethnic hatred and defamation of a nation, of race and belief on the internet. After several cases in which teenagers and youths were sentenced for death threats and offers to pay for killing refugees, this is the first case of an adult man being prosecuted for his Facebook posts.

Steigauf argues that he has not incited anyone to “kill, burn to death, hang”. However, he wrote that both the current and the former governments have deserved “a rope” for treason and for failure to manage “the G. ethnic minority”. He adds he could not have incited anyone publicly, as his Facebook profile is a private one, as the defence argued, and thus not everyone has access. “If Facebook is not public, then I do not know what is,” the judge stated during the trial.

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Defence offers counter-arguments

The defence brought already notorious arguments, according to Denník N, that “Gipsy” is a lawful term, that Steigauf did not call for abolishing all nationalist political parties, only the Hungarian ones, and all statements concerning the limiting of minorities’ rights, including the suffrage and creating a reservation for the Roma, were directed at politicians and parliament – meaning they were sort of legislative proposals.

On Facebook, Seigauf also proposed to strip suffrage and the right to be elected from various groups, but also all citizens who have not paid a single cent to state coffers, which, according to him, are 99 percent of Roma.

When the court pointed out that he also is a beneficiary of a physical disability pension, he was insulted and pointed out that he had previously worked for 22 years. Steigauf was also sentenced, five years ago, for not paying alimonies for his child but is seen as innocent now, and he disliked the subject being mentioned in the courtroom as a comparison to his own statements.

He came to the courtroom with about 20 supporters who hailed his innocence; he himself feels innocent, too. “I stand firm behind my statements but I have not committed anything, I have not harmed anyone,” he told the court. The former city police officer, miner and now welfare beneficiary deems his trial a political one and points out that when "Prime Minister Robert Fico mentions the Gipsy issue, it is not a crime”.

The man spreading hatred on Facebook had run for various parties, in the past, first for ĽSNS in 2012, then for the Slovak National Party (SNS) (after he was excluded from ĽSNS) in 2015 and then in 2016 for the extra-parliamentary Spoločne za Slovensko.

A single judge in Revúca first sentenced him to a conditional sentence of two years but he appealed; then, Steigauf was sentenced to 40 months in prison. His lawyer appealed, and now the appellate Regional Court overturned the verdict and sentenced the defendant to two years conditionally.

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