Bratislava, Slovakia – A far-right MP has lost his seat in Parliament after being found guilty of hate speech against the country’s ethnic Roma community.
Milan Mazurek, a 25-year-old lawmaker from the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) was expelled from the National Council, the lower house of Parliament, on Tuesday after being found guilty of hate speech by the Supreme Court.
Following the verdict, the MP stood by his remarks, claiming he was simply exercising his freedom of speech: “I have nothing to be sorry for […] I was just speaking the truth”, he said.
Slovakia’s highest judicial court upheld a verdict that found M. Mazurek guilty of hate speech over comments he made on a radio program three years ago, in which he compared ethnic Roma to animals and accused them of making children to make money from petty crimes and begging.
Slovakia’s estimated 400,000-strong Roma community continues to face constant discrimination and to suffer from disproportionate rates of poverty and illiteracy.
The Parliament announced that “following today’s decision of the Supreme Court, Milan Mazurek is losing his seat” in accordance with article 81 of the Constitution, and will be unable to run for office in next year’s parliamentary elections.
This is the first case of this kind in Slovakia.
Mazurek will also have to pay a fine of €10,000, double the initial amount handed by the lower court, Supreme Court spokeswoman Alexandra Vazanova told AFP, or face a six-month jail sentence should he refuse.
Known for its virulent nativist, anti-migrant and anti-Roma rhetoric, Marian Kotleba’s far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) has held 13 seats in Parliament since 2016. M. Mazurek will be replaced by LSNS MP Martin Belusky, according to the TASR news agency, until the end of the legislature.
In May, the country’s constitutional court rejected a bid seeking to ban and dissolve Kotleba’s party, on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence People’s Party Our Slovakia was an extremist movement that presented a threat to democracy.
LSNS leader Marian Kotleba came fourth in this year’s presidential election, winning slightly over 10% of the votes. Two months later, his party came at the third place in the EU elections with over 12% of the ballots, sending two MEPs to the European Parliament.