Far-right Slovenian politician arrested amid crackdown on armed vigilante group

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Slovenian police arrested two people and carried out house searches on Thursday as part of an investigation into an armed vigilante group that has made headlines in the small Adriatic country in recent days. The police have not yet provided information on the arrested individuals; however, in photos published in the Slovenian media, extreme-right politician Andrej Šiško, who reports describe as the group leader, can be seen in front of his house in Maribor in the presence of police officers following an apparent raid.

According to the police, apartments and cars were searched at five locations in Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city located in the north east of the country and Murska Sobota, also in the north east. A total of 40 detectives are involved in the case which is being investigated by the public prosecutor in Maribor. The detained men are facing charges of incitement to violent changes to the constitutional order, which according to the Slovenian Penal Code carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. They have also been detained on suspicion of illegal arms and drug trafficking.

. According to their leader, the Štajerska varda (Styrian Guard) as the group is called, has several hundred members who, among other things, carry out “border patrols”. One video shows a group of hooded men swear that they will “faithfully fulfill the orders of our superiors until death and do everything in defence of the free people’s government of the country Štajerska” (the northeastern region of Slovenia).

Slovenian leaders have sharply condemned the groups activities. The far-right politician Šiško, head of the extra-parliamentary nationalist party United Slovenia, had a respectable turnout of votes in the presidential election last year, winning 2.2 percent of the ballot.  He is also a longtime leader of Hervardi, a nationalist association that espouses anti-immigration, anti-Islam and anti-gay policies. that took place in 1992.