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Slovak court denies motion to ban far-right party

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia’s Supreme Court rejected on Monday a motion to dissolve the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia which is expected to do well in next month’s European Parliament elections, saying it did not find enough evidence it was a threat to the country’s democratic system.

FILE PHOTO: Leader of People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) Marian Kotleba is seen at Slovakia's supreme court in Bratislava, Slovakia, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/File Photo

The General Prosecutor argued that the party, the third strongest in Slovakia’s parliament, had fascist tendencies, violated the constitution and aimed to dismantle Slovak democracy.

The court said the prosecutor did not back up those claims with sufficient evidence.

“A party can be dissolved only if it actually fights against democracy and rule of law, which has not been proven in this case,” chief judge Jana Zemkova said.

“The court had no other option but to deny the motion,” she added.

The decision is final and cannot be appealed.

The party, which openly admires Jozef Tiso, leader of a Nazi puppet state that ruled the country during World War Two, surprisingly won its first 14 parliamentary seats in the 150-seat chamber in the 2016 election.

The party denies links to fascism. Its appeal echoes growth in similar movements in other European countries and is driven by rising public anger over graft scandals linked to traditional parties.

In a Focus agency opinion poll this month, it was the third biggest party with support of around 10 percent. Its leader, Marian Kotleba, ran for president last month and ended up in fourth place.

In the European Parliament elections, in which eurosceptic and far-right parties across Europe are projected to make gains, the People’s Party calling for Slovakia’s exit from the EU is expected to win two seats.

It also wants Slovakia to leave NATO, whose military exercises it sees as a provocation against Russia.

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

The party has expressed admiration for Tiso, who allowed tens of thousands of Slovak Jews to be deported to Nazi death camps and was later tried for treason. It is also hostile to Slovakia’s Roma minority.

It stirred criticism in 2017 when it posted pictures online of an enlarged copy of a check 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 speeches against Roma, Jews and Islam.

Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova, editing by Ed Osmond