Court probes Nazi links to soccer 'Hitler salute'

"Hitler salutes" made by three individuals separately during the 2022 Australia Cup soccer final might not have had links to Nazi Germany, a magistrate has heard.

Three men have been charged for performing the salutes at Parramatta's CommBank Stadium on October 1, 2022, during the match between Sydney United 58 and Macarthur FC.

Nikola Marko Gasparovic, 46, Dominik Sieben, 25, and Marijan Lisica, 45, attended a hearing at Parramatta Local Court on Monday, each charged with one count of publicly displaying a Nazi symbol without reasonable excuse.

The offence comes with a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison.

Marijan Lisica leaves Parramatta Local Court
Marijan Lisica is accused of performing a Nazi salute numerous times.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Jarrod Imlay told the court the men of Croatian heritage did not know each other, were sitting in different areas of the stadium and made the salutes separately.

"He’s alleged to perform a Nazi or Hitler salute numerous times," he told Magistrate Joy Boulos about the claims against Lisica.

The men's actions were intentional and deliberate, he said.

The key issue in the case is whether the salute performed was actually a Nazi symbol or whether it was linked to Croatian history that predated World War II.

What counts as a Nazi symbol is not defined under "novel" legislation introduced in August 2022, Sgt Imlay said.

At the stadium, Lisica wore army camouflage gear, Gasparovic brought a World War II-era flag, and Sieben wore the Croatian flag draped across his shoulders like a cape, the court heard.

The three men were allegedly captured performing the salute multiple times on the stadium's CCTV footage and by Network Ten's cameras broadcasting the game, he said.

Each gave interviews to police captured on body-worn cameras, Ms Boulos heard.

Sieben told police outside his southern Sydney home in February 2023 he had Jewish friends and came from a good Catholic school.

Dominik Sieben leaves Parramatta Local Court
Dominik Sieben told police his raised hand had nothing to do with Nazism.

He said he was just raising his hand to cheer on his team while holding a beer in the other hand.

"It had nothing to do with Nazism, nothing to do with the Hitler crap, any of that crap,” he told Detective Sergeant Aaron Turner.

He said the footage of him at the game had been "blown out of proportion".

Speaking to Det Sgt Turner at Cabramatta Police Station, Gasparovic said the salute was a Croatian gesture which dated back 300 to 400 years.

He said he was shocked by the public outcry after the match and told police he wasn't a racist.

"I've got nothing against the Jewish community," he said.

Earlier in the day, Sieben's barrister unsuccessfully tried to have his client's case heard separately from the others, arguing the 25-year-old did not attend the match with clothing or gear connected with World War II or the military.

"The case of Mr Sieben is a weak case compared to the cases against the others," he told Ms Boulos.

The court has been given expert evidence about how Nazi symbols including the "Hitler salute" are linked to Croatian nationalism and used by far-right extremists.

Kristy Campion, a senior lecturer in terrorism studies from Charles Sturt University, was cross-examined about whether a right-hand palm salute automatically meant Nazis.

She was shown photographs of Roman centurions raising their palms into the air, as well as children giving what's known as the Bellamy salute which was historically used by US students giving the Pledge of Allegiance.

Dr Campion told the court there was no historical record of Croatians using the salute until after the country's collaboration with the Nazis in World War II.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store