Australia Cup Nazi salute: Nikola Marko Gasparovic, Dominik Sieben and Marijan Lisica fight charges

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Three men invoked “hatred and bigotry” when they “mimicked Adolf Hitler” in gestures that police allege are Nazi salutes at a highly charged football grand final, a court has been told.

Nikola Marko Gasparovic, Dominik Sieben and Marijan Lisica separately attended the highly charged Australia Cup final between Sydney United 58 and Macarthur on October 1, 2022.

The men are all of Croatian background and are keen supporters of Sydney United.

All three men were captured separately performing an alleged “Hitler salute” on CCTV and on a broadcast of the game by Channel 10.

The men are fighting one charge each of knowingly displaying by public act a Nazi symbol without a reasonable excuse at a hearing before magistrate Joy Boulos that entered its second day on Tuesday.

In his closing address to the court, police prosecutor Sergeant Jarrod Imlay said the men were all separately aware of their actions.

“It is not the intention to punish people who are unaware of their actions….the prosecution case is the conduct was not unintentional, they are intentional acts,” he said on Tuesday.

He told the magistrate she should find, beyond a reasonable doubt, the salutes do qualify as Nazi symbols while the “hatred and bigotry they invoke” has no place in NSW.

“The interpretation, in its most simplest form mimicking Adolf Hitler, will not be tolerated by the state of NSW,” Sergeant Imlay told the court.

He told the court Mr Sieben had denied performing a Nazi salute but could be seen in the footage having “wilfully raised his right arm as a gesture of a Nazi salute”.

Mr Imlay said Mr Sieben’s interview was “inconsistent” with his actions in the footage.

In footage played to the court on Monday Mr Sieben said he was disgusted that media had “twisted” a photo of him to make it look like he displayed the Nazi salute.

He told police that he had a beer in one hand and was attempting to cheer on his team with his other arm.

“Everyone was chanting … the media grabbed my photo and twisted the entire thing and made it look like someone I’m not,” he said.

“It had nothing to do with the Hitler crap … any of that crap … it was blown out of proportion so much.”

But Mr Imlay said Mr Sieben’s answers were “self-serving and very difficult to believe”.

While Mr Sieben claims he did not know raising the right arm was a Nazi salute, the prosecutor told the court anyone with a “western education would know what that symbol is”.

He told the court: “It’s one of the most infamous things relevant to World War II and is tied closely to all parts of modern history”.

Mr Sieben’s defence lawyer told the court his client did not know the gesture was a Nazi salute.

“There’s no bigotry no hatred…there was no aggression” the lawyer said.

“They were caught up in the game itself – any salute was more victory of pride as opposed to displaying a Nazi symbol.”

Mr Gasparovic’s interview showed him telling police there was “nothing wrong” when he held up his hand and he had “nothing against” Jewish people.

The 46-year-old said he was “proud” to be Croatian and left the football match happy but was shocked when he saw a photo of himself in the media the following day.

Mr Imlay told the court there was “nothing” in Mr Gasparovic’s interview that would cause the magistrate to doubt the allegation.

The court was told the case against Mr Lisica relies solely on CCTV footage, where he was seen allegedly performing the gesture seven times.

“Some of the times he was completely alone and not engaged in any crowd act,” Mr Imlay told the court.

Mr Lisica’s interview was played to the court on Tuesday morning, where he told police he “couldn’t remember” whether he performed the gesture because he had so much to drink.

The 45-year-old told police he dressed in army camouflage at the game in “honour of the people who died in the homeland in the war in the 1990s”.

The court was told Mr Lisica had also brought a large homemade banner that read “Za Dom”, which translates to “for homeland”.

When asked whether he did a “Nazi salute” at the game, Mr Lisica said he “couldn’t even remember” because he had “a few drinks”.

Mr Lisica said “people interpret things their way”, but he claims his actions were an appreciation for his Croatian people that “goes back centuries”.

“I don’t understand why everyone always says if we put our hand up it’s a Nazi salute,” he said.

“I don’t believe it’s Nazism, if they did whatever they did, it’s for Croatia.”

Representing Mr Gasparovic and Mr Lisica, solicitor Avanish Singh told the court there was no evidence before the court that his clients had any connection with fascism, racism or neo-Nazis.

Mr Singh said the phrase “Za Dom”, which his clients are alleged to have chanted, is centuries old and had no association with World War II.

“The court could not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the symbol was a Nazi symbol,” he told the magistrate.

Charles Sturt University senior lecturer in terrorism studies Kristy Campion told the court that a right-hand palm salute did not automatically relate to Nazism.

Dr Campion told the court that history showed Croatians did not begin using the salute until after World War II and their collaboration with Germany.

The three men are unknown to each other, with the court earlier told that they had been charged under “novel” NSW laws.

Mr Imlay told the court that Mr Lisica wore army camouflage, while Mr Gasparovic carried a “World War II era Nazi” flag.

Meanwhile, Mr Sieben wore a red and white jersey and had the Croatian flag hanging like a cape around his neck.

All three men were interviewed before they were charged with knowingly displaying by public act a Nazi symbol without a reasonable excuse.

It’s the first time a person has been charged with the offence.

Anyone found guilty of the offence of displaying a Nazi symbol without an excuse faces a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment and/or an $11,000 fine.

The key issue at the hearing will be whether the salute constitutes a Nazi symbol, as it is not defined in the Act.

“It will be a matter for Your Honour to determine beyond a reasonable doubt whether the actions by the accused are a Nazi symbol,” Mr Imlay said.

Ms Boulos will have to determine whether the elements of the charge have been satisfied to a reasonable doubt and whether the men “knowingly” conducted themselves in a particular way.

The magistrate will deliver judgment on May 28.