Slovakia – In a new judicial twist in Slovakia, Štefan Harabin, a former president of the Supreme Court (1998–2003 and 2009–2014), former minister of justice (2006–2009) in Robert Fico’s first government, former presidential candidate in 2019 (with 14.34% of the vote against Zuzana Čaputová), and leader of the small Slovak national-conservative party Vlasť (Fatherland), was arrested and detained for several hours on Monday, 16 May, by the Slovak National Crime Agency (NAKA).
“I would do exactly the same as Putin”
According to the police statement quoted by the Slovak press, the NAKA has opened a case “on suspicion of extremism” against the former minister. When this was first announced, no further detail was given. Since then, however, the judicial authorities have reported that Harabin is accused of having posted a statement (now deleted) on his Facebook account on 24 March, glorifying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
“I would do exactly the same as Putin with regard to the events in Ukraine. (…) It is the duty of the Russians to pacify the Nazis who have murdered 15,000 of their own civilians in a genocidal manner since 2014…”
According to the judicial authorities, this constitutes the approval of a crime: “In this case, it should be noted that the defendant,
judge Štefan Harabin, […] also due to the fact that he has a legal background and has been a judge for many years, must have known and had knowledge that the actions of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin […] amount to a crime of aggression.”
For his part, Harabin denies accusations of extremism made against him and accuses the authorities of wanting to manipulate the investigation:
“Eurofascists in the police will take my laptop and cell phone to enter non-existent data in order to produce non-existent criminal activity.”
He has also said that he will eventually be acquitted in this case.
Štefan Harabin has been very critical in recent months of Eduard Heger’s government and President Zuzana Čaputová, in particular in connection with the measures taken against the Covid-19 pandemic, Slovakia’s stance in the face of the Russian–Ukrainian conflict, and the sanctions now imposed on Russia.
Former Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose legal troubles we recently reported, has made the following comment on this new case:
“Štefan Harabin uses some harsh language that one can’t always agree with. But to restrict the freedom of expression of such eminent legal professionals […] is ridiculous.”