Issues of the 20th meeting of parliament’s education committee that took place on April 27 did not attract many journalists, as MPs were supposed to discuss partial legislative changes and evaluations. But it turned out to be one of the most exciting committee meetings ever.
Police officers interrupted the meeting in pursuit of Stanislav Mizík, an MP for the extremist party of Marian Kotleba. They requested his cooperation, then walked to Mizík’s office to search it. The police also charged him with extremist crimes.
“If someone denies existence of holocaust or wants to select people based on their race, such wording is fulfilling of a Penal Code,” Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák (Smer) told the press.
The raid was related to Mizík’s comments on the list of personalities awarded by Slovak President Andrej Kiska published on a social network on January 10. He commented on their Jewish origin and wrote that Kiska was insane and willingly degraded the Slovak awards. He also stated that Daniela Šilanová, an activist in Roma issues awarded in memoriam, is “a fanatic of gypsy habits”.
A day after the raid, the police charged another L'SNS MP Milan Mazurek with an extremist crime for his comments on private broadcaster Frontinus Radio related to Roma, migrants and Muslims.
The police operations came after legislative changes introduced by Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská (Most-Híd) which have been in effect since the beginning of 2017. Racially motivated crimes now fall under the Specialised Criminal Court and The National Crime Agency (NAKA).
The first results are already visible. In the past, the police registered around five hate crime cases per year, but this year it has charged three persons in two months, according to Irena Biháriová, the head of People Against Racism NGO.
“This is an unprecedented improvement,” Biháriová opines in her blog. “Regarding news about several NAKA ‘raids’, it seems that we've improved the fight [against racism] in the area of criminal legislation.”
Opposition: raid was too showy
Opposition parties Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO-NOVA) and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) criticised Kaliňák for the police raid in Mizík’s office during the committee session.
The police could have waited until the session ended and then detained Mizík, now they have given Kotleba’s party ĽSNS a reason to say that they are abused by state power. Extremists of ĽSNS agreed on the raid with Kaliňák or Smer head Robert Fico, according to OĽaNO leader Igor Matovič.
“It is because everyone knows that the stronger Kotleba is, the bigger the chance is that Smer will rule,” Matovič told the press.
Leader of SaS Richard Sulík agrees.
“It is clever,” Sulík wrote on his Facebook page. “a few more of those [police] searches and Kotleba will have 20 percent [of votes] and then a right-wing government could not be constructed.”
In his reaction, Kaliňák stated in a similar fashion that Matovič and Sulík are preparing for cooperation with Kotleba. He pointed out that Sulík initiated a meeting with Kotleba to discuss the political strategy of Kotleba’s party which happened before the 2010 elections.
Mizík was not charged because of his political opinions but for xenophobic statements which crossed the border of what society should accept. For example, after Mizík published his comment on Kiska’s awards, one of the awarded people, Michal Kaščák, the organiser of the festival Pohoda, found “Jude raus!” written on his office wall, which means “Jew go away”, according to Žitňanská.
“As an MP with influence on public opinion he [Mizík] has to be aware of the fact that some people who listen to him may transform his statements, even into such action,” Žitňanská wrote on her blog.
Mazurek more likely to face court
The charges against Mazurek failed to spark such a political fight as the search of Mizík’s office. Also, the police did not specify which comments he is being charged for.
Mazurek visited Žilina-based Radio Frontinus on October 10, 2016 to discuss his work in politics. Kotleba’s MP Mazurek stated, for example, that “people from Roma settlements have done nothing for our nation, state budget, culture and are draining our social system” and he indirectly compared Roma with animals.
In regard to migrants, Mazurek stated that “foreign non-European Muslim migrants, who hate our culture, come here to destroy everything” and repeated several debunked myths about migrants committing sexual crimes in Europe.
The licensing authority, Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission fined Frontinus with €15,000 and stated that radio host Martin Palúch did not confront Mazurek’s statements with facts or counter opinions. Frontinus is a small regional radio with a total budget of €63,000 and profit around €5,000.
The charges against Mazurek are more likely to get to court than the charges against Mizík because he was caught live. Mizík can say that he did not write the Facebook comments that are under investigation; yet Mazurek cannot say that he is not the author of his statements on radio, according to Biháriová.
She also praised Kaliňák for saying that the police cannot hesitate with charges in cases of extremism just because it is possible that the case will not make it to the court. This was common practice among police officers in the past, according to Biháriová.
“It is a success that the minister criticises such an approach and calls for more strength,” Biháriová wrote on her Facebook page.
Mazurek is also being prosecuted for assaulting a police officer, and could face 1-5 years in prison for attacking a public official.
Crackdown on extremists
Criminal charges are not the only form of consequences extremists are facing for their statements.
The parliamentary mandate and immunity committee imposed the highest possible fine of €1,000 on Mazurek and Mizík for other defamatory and racist statements they have made in parliament.
“They had the possibility to apologise but the committee did not accept this apology,” the chairman of the committee Richard Raši (Smer) told the press, adding that both MPs used the space they got only to confirm their previous statements.
Moreover, Facebook blocked the fan site titled “I vote for Kotleba, I vote correctly”, followed by some 45,000 people, on April 10, probably following mass reporting of those opposing Kotleba.
It has also blocked other fan sites, including the main site of ĽSNS with 80,000 followers, the profile of Milan Mazurek with 21,000 fans, and the profile of ĽSNS member Mário Vidák with some 15,000 supporters.
The official reasons have not been announced yet. One of them, however, may be that they incited hatred against various groups, such as Roma, migrants, homosexuals, Muslims, liberals, people from NGOs or “Bratislava cafe society”, Denník N wrote.
3. May 2017 at 8:54 | Roman Cuprik