Court probes Nazi links to soccer ‘Hitler salute’

Miklos Bolza |

The accused men were among the supporters at the Australia Cup final.
The accused men were among the supporters at the Australia Cup final.

“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. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

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. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

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.