By Roy Mabasa and Agence France-Presse
Thousands of Slovaks rallied in the capital Bratislava on Friday to pay tribute to a murdered Filipino expat, beaten to death by man believed to be a neo-Nazi.
Henry Acorda, a 36-year-old Filipino living in Slovakia, was assaulted in the heart of the capital on May 26 by 28-year-old Juraj H., whose surname has been withheld pending trial.
Five days later Acorda died in hospital from injuries he sustained in the attack.
Slovakian Interior Minister Denisa Sakova expressed hope that the perpetrator “will be brought to justice and punished accordingly.”
Acorda worked as a financial analyst for a multinational company in Bratislava.
Local officials, led by Bratislava Mayor Ivo Nesrovnal and Old Town Mayor Radoslav Stevcik lent their voices in condemning the attack against the Filipino worker, with the latter demanding to strengthen police patrols in the center of Bratislava.
The people of Bratislava organized a so-called “Justice for Henry” gathering at SNP square on June 6 to protest Acorda’s death.
Organizers told the local Dennik N daily that around 3,000 protesters, mostly in their twenties, turned out for the memorial rally that began with a violinist playing a mournful tune.
Some carried banners reading “Justice for Henry” and “Nazi brain burn in hell.” Others laid flowers and lit candles at an improvised memorial where the attack occurred.
Authorities in the Slovak capital had earlier reported that the suspect pushed the 36-year-old Acorda onto the ground and kept kicking him in the head even when the victim was already unconscious.
A CCTV footage made available to the media showed that the suspect hit Acorda, who then fell and became unconscious.
The attacker continued to kick Acorda in the head and used a mobile phone to photograph him laying in the street.
Prosecutors have charged Juraj H. with manslaughter and placed him in pre-trial detention. If found guilty, he could face up to 12 years in behind bars.
Police have neither confirmed nor denied that the attack was racially motivated.
Juraj H. said he “will be sorry for what happened for the rest of my life. But I don’t remember anything,” while being escorted from court on Monday.
The Friday rally was organised on Facebook by four anti-fascist groups.
“The information that we have about Juraj H. makes it clear that he is inclined to support the far right,” they wrote.
“Let’s make sure this brutal murder does not go without consequences for him.”
The organizers pointed to the fact that Juraj H. used his Facebook profile to post a white Ku Klux Klan robe captioned: “Ku Klux Klan outfit not bad.”
He also posted a photo of a Russian vodka bottle captioned “white power.”
Several Slovak politicians have also condemned the attack, including leftist Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini.
“These are very bad signals to our society. We must not have mercy on the murderer and justice must be served immediately,” he told the Dennik N daily.
However, his Smer Social Democracy party and its SNS nationalist coalition partner both campaigned on a staunchly anti-Muslim and anti-refugee platform ahead of the 2016 election that brought them to power, something analysts say paved the way for the extreme right Our Slovakia to enter parliament for the first time.
Its leader Marian Kotleba is known for harsh anti-Roma and anti-migrant views and for leading street marches with party members dressed in black neo-Nazi black uniforms.
For its part, the Philippine government has welcomed the assurance given by the Slovakian government, led by Pellegrini, that justice will be served for the death of Acorda.
“These are very bad signals for our society. Justice must be immediately delivered,” Prime Minister Pellegrini was quoted as telling the local media in Bratislava.
Ambassador Ma. Cleofe Natividad went to Bratislava on Wednesday to personally speak to the mother and two siblings of Acorda who earlier flew to the Slovakian capital with the help of victim’s employer.
Natividad assured the family that the Embassy will extend all possible assistance to them, including the repatriation of Acorda’s remains and in hiring lawyers to pursue the case against his assailant.
According to the envoy, Acorda, who moved from Malaysia to Slovakia more than a year ago, was with two female companions from the Philippines and Poland when the incident happened.