BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovak prosecutors said on Friday that they had charged the leader of a far-right party that holds seats in parliament with promoting extremism after he handed out checks for a sum allegedly known as a neo-Nazi symbol.
Lawmaker Marian Kotleba was charged with “promoting sympathy towards a movement aimed at suppressing fundamental rights and freedoms,” prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Jana Tokolyova told AFP on Friday.
The charge stemmed from a 2017 charity event organized by the Kotleba-People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), where Kotleba handed out checks to families in need made out for 1,488 euros ($1,733).
“In a school located in Banska Bystrica, Kotleba handed out the three larger-than-life, symbolic checks for 1,488 euros to three families in front of nearly 400 guests,” Tokolyova said.
“The number 1,488 is a well-known neo-Nazi symbol,” she added.
If a court accepts the charges, Kotleba will be tried and faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
The former governor of his native central region of Banska Bystrica, who has been charged with hate speech in the past, is known for having led street marches with party members dressed in black neo-Nazi uniforms.
He is hostile to both Slovakia’s large Roma minority and the established elite and has spoken warmly of former president Jozef Tiso, who agreed to deport tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi Germany during World War II.
His party has campaigned heavily against letting migrants into the country and won seats in parliament for the first time in March 2016.
Last year, prosecutors also set in motion a case asking the Supreme Court to ban the LSNS.
There is evidence that it “is an extremist political party with fascist tendencies,” Andrea Predajnova, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor general, said at the time.