Bratislava, Slovakia – Former Prime Minister and chairman of the ruling Smer party Robert Fico has been officially charged by Slovak police with hate speech and inciting racial hatred, local news agency TASR reported.
Robert Fico, Slovakia’s long-term strongman forced to resign as Prime Minister last year in the wake of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak’s murder, was charged by local police for expressing support to far-right lawmaker Milan Mazurek.
Far-right lawmaker expelled from Parliament for anti-Roma comments
In September, Milan Mazurek, an MP for ‘People’s Party our Slovakia’ (LSNS), was found guilty by the country’s Supreme Court of promoting racial and xenophobic hatred due to comments he made about Slovakia’s sizable Roma population, a 400,000-strong minority that continues to face constant discrimination.
“The Gypsy anti-socials have never done anything for the nation and never will”, the MP from the far-right LSNS party said, before comparing Roma children to “animals in the zoo”.
After being found guilty, Mazurek was expelled from Parliament – the first case of the kind in Slovakia – and had to pay a fine of €10,000.
Former Slovak PM Robert Fico accused of inciting racial hatred
Now, former Prime Minister Fico is himself being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NAKA) for condoning and echoing Mazurek’s comments.
In a video, the former Premier said that “Milan Mazurek said what almost the whole nation thinks and if you execute someone for truth, you make him a national hero”, adding: “If the Supreme Court ruling were to be the benchmark of what is a crime in addressing the Roma, then the investigatory bodies can enter any pub in Slovakia and lock up all the guests”.
NAKA investigators charged Fico, who supported Mazurek after the former MP was convicted by judicial authorities, with three specific crimes: defaming a race, nation and belief; incitement to national, racial and ethnic hatred; and endorsement of the crime.
If found guilty of the charges, Fico could face from one to five years in jail.
Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini refused to comment on the Slovak police’s decision to press charges: “The police are acting on the order of the prosecutor, the prosecutor has a reason to do so, and we must respect and submit to the decision and be as cooperative as possible, regardless of whether you are Prime Minister, party chairman or ordinary worker”.