Soccer fans 'mimicked Hitler' at final, court told

A court has been urged to convict three men for inciting hatred and bigotry at an Australia Cup final through "tainted" one-handed Nazi salutes made during the soccer game.

Nikola Marko Gasparovic, 46, Dominik Sieben, 25, and Marijan Lisica, 45, allegedly performed the salute at Parramatta's CommBank Stadium on October 1, 2022, during the match between Sydney United 58 and Macarthur FC.

They have each pleaded not guilty to one count of publicly displaying a Nazi symbol without reasonable excuse, an offence that carries a maximum jail term of 12 months.

The men have argued their actions were not connected to the Nazis but were rather a symbol of support and pride for Croatia that pre-dated World War II.

On Tuesday, police prosecutor Jarrod Imlay told Parramatta Local Court there was absolutely no doubt the salute was synonymous with Nazism.

"It has overwhelmingly been adopted and then tainted by Nazi Germany,” he told magistrate Joy Boulos.

Sydney United 58 supporters at the Australia Cup (file image)
Three men deny they made Nazi salutes during the the Australia Cup final in 2022.

The salute was a Nazi symbol and all three men knew this to be the case, Sergeant Imlay said.

"Mimicking Adolf Hitler will not be tolerated by the state of NSW," he said.

He questioned Seiben's comments to police that he did not know of the salute's connections to Nazi Germany.

"Any person with the privilege of a Western education ... would know what a Nazi salute is," Sgt Imlay said.

"It's perhaps one of the most infamous things relating to World War II."

Seiben's barrister argued police prosecutors had not proved his client's actions were intentionally linked to Nazism, as opposed to simply supporting Croatia.

The 25-year-old's actions did not show hatred or bigotry or exhibit "hardcore neo-Nazi fascism", the lawyer said. 

"Any salute was more of victory and pride as opposed to displaying a Nazi symbol," he said.

The law had not been enacted to punish people like Sieben who were unaware of their actions, he added.

Representing Gasparovic and Lisica, solicitor Avinash Singh said the NSW law outlawing Nazi symbols made specific reference to the far-right National Socialist German Workers' Party and its ideologies, as well as modern-day neo-Nazis.

"There is no evidence before the court that the accused have any connection to any of those matters,” he said.

The court would find the pair not guilty because there was a "reasonable possibility" their actions had nothing to do with Nazism, Mr Singh argued.

Dominik Sieben leaves Parramatta Local Court (file image)
Dominik Sieben told police he didn't know the salute had links to Nazi Germany.

Earlier on Tuesday, the court was played a recorded police interview with Lisica, who wore army camouflage to the soccer match and held a large hand-made Croatian flag with the phrase Za Dom, meaning "for homeland".

In CCTV footage played to the court, he is seen putting his right arm into the air with his palm down on seven separate occasions.

Speaking to police in February 2023, Lisica said he had 10 beers before and during the game and could not remember making any salute.

He said he dressed in army gear and took the Za Dom banner to the game to show respect to Croatians who had died, particularly during the 1990s war.

The phrase went back to the 1700s before it was adopted by the Nazis, he said.

"People interpret things their way," Lisica added.

"I don't understand why everyone always says if we put our hands up, especially us Croatians, it’s a Nazi salute."

The three men did not know each other prior to the soccer final and were seated in different parts of the stadium, the court heard previously.

Expert evidence has been provided about how Nazi symbols including the so-called "Hitler salute" are linked to Croatian nationalism and used by far-right extremists.

Ms Boulos will deliver her decision on May 28.

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