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Prosecutors push to ban Slovak far-right party

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovak prosecutors took steps to ban a far-right party that won its first parliamentary seats last year, saying on Thursday it posed a threat to the country’s democratic system.

FILE PHOTO - A leader of People's Party Our Slovakia (LS NS), Marian Kotleba, attends a commemoration of the 87th anniversary of the death of Slovak general Milan Rastislav Stefanik near the village of Brezova pod Bradlom, Slovakia, in this May 6, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/Files

The People’s Party-Our Slovakia, which openly admires Jozef Tiso, leader of a Nazi puppet state that ruled the country during World War Two, won a larger-than-expected 8 percent of the vote in national elections in March 2016.

Filing a motion with the Supreme Court to have the party dissolved, the General Prosecutor said its aim was to dismantle Slovak democracy.

“The programme and activities of this extremist party with fascist tendencies violate the constitution, law and international agreements,” the prosecutor’s spokeswoman, Andrea Predajnova, said.

Its rise echoes growth in similar movements in other European countries, driven in part by years of economic near-stagnation and the influx of more than a million migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

Slovakia has seen little immigration, however, and analysts instead attribute the People’s Party success to rising public anger over graft scandals linked to traditional parties.

It has 14 lawmakers and its support has risen to about 10 percent since the election, according to opinion polls.

The party, which denies any links to fascism, would study the court motion but its activities would continue, one of its lawmakers, Milan Uhrik, told Reuters.

Its leader, Marian Kotleba, previously ran another far-right party, the Slovak Brotherhood, which the Supreme Court dissolved in 2006 for breaching the constitution.

As well as expressing admiration for Tiso, who allowed tens of thousands of Slovak Jews to be deported to Nazi death camps and was later tried for treason, the People’s Party is hostile to Slovakia’s Roma minority.

It stirred criticism in March when it posted pictures online of an enlarged copy of a cheque donated to a charity for disabled children for 1,488 euros -- a number used by white supremacists representing a Nazi salute.

Two of its lawmakers are facing charges for hate speech against the Roma, Jews and Islam. If found guilty, they face up to six years in prison.

If the Supreme Court decided to ban the party, its deputies would be able to remain in the legislature as independents.

Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; editing by John Stonestreet