Ex-state secretary loses damages suit against NSi leader

Ljubljana – A court in Kamnik has turned down a damages suit that ex-Prime Minister Marjan Šarec’s state secretary for national security Damir Črnčec has filed against New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin after the latter accused him of abusing the SOVA intelligence and security agency for political purposes, N1 news portal has reported.

The suit pertains to the period when Tonin chaired the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission as an opposition MP, while Črnčec was state secretary for national security at Šarec’s office.

Črnčec sued Tonin for EUR 7,000, arguing he was hurt by Tonin’s statement that he had allegedly abused the repressive agencies to undermine the opposition.

Črnčec led SOVA between February 2012 and March 2013 under the second Janez Janša government, but switched sides to become Šarec’s state secretary in September 2018.

In 2019, SOVA pressed charges over intelligence leaked from materials examined by Toni’s commission concerning the Slovenia-Croatia border arbitration procedure.

The Kamnik Local Court now gave priority to Tonin’s right to the freedom of speech over Črnčec’s right to protection of honour and reputation.

It said that the right to the freedom of speech is the basic prerequisite for development of democracy and of individuals, the news portal said on Saturday.

The court holds that in criticising politicians potentially offensive harsher words are sometimes used. However, a person being offended by such words does not yet mean that the line of the freedom of expression was crossed.

The court holds that in this case, a politician expressed a view on a political issue of broader importance that is in the public interest.

It said that even though Črnčec had not held a public office since resignation, he is still a public figure as he serves as an advisor to the now opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).

His lawyer Urška Kežmah said in a comment for N1 that while there is not not much case law in this field, “the ruling is quite interesting”. She announced an appeal, arguing Črnčec is neither a politician nor a public figure in the true sense of the word. Tonin did not comment beyond saying that the ruling was telling in itself.