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Parliament security chief admits leaking video of alleged assault of former PM

The official said he wanted to calm "turmoil" over whether the incident was an attack on Finnish democracy.

Video footage of the alleged assault was published by commercial broadcaster MTV. Image: MTV uutiset, Petteri Sopanen / Yle
Yle News

Parliament's director of security has admitted to leaking to the media surveillance video of an alleged assault on MP Juha Sipilä (Cen) nearby the Parliament House earlier this year.

Parliament completed an investigation and issued a report on the matter on Tuesday.

In the report, Parliament's security director Jukka Savola confirmed that the recordings of the incident were captured by the building's security surveillance camera system and that he had handed over the footage to the media.

The footage was published (siirryt toiseen palveluun) by commercial broadcaster MTV on 15 January.

The alleged assault took place on 7 January when a passerby approached MP Sipilä--who also served a term as Prime Minister--as he was crossing the street near the Parliament building. Police located the suspect during the course of the preliminary investigation but have been unable to determine a motive behind the alleged attack.

The case file has since been passed to prosecutors for consideration.

The video footage obtained and published by MTV appears to show the suspect following Sipilä after an exchange of words, and pushing him from behind.

At the time, Parliamentary Secretary-General Maija-Leena Paavola said that the surveillance camera footage was, in principle, confidential material and that the Parliamentary Office wanted to determine "how it was possible" that the material was released to the media.

Savola wanted to "calm turmoil"

In the report, security director Savola explained that several media outlets had asked to see footage of the incident from the surveillance camera recordings.

"According to the Public Access to Information Act, as the director of parliamentary security, I have the discretion to decide whether and to what extent confidential information may be disclosed," he said in the report.

Savola added that he had come to the conclusion that he could hand over the requested video footage because it did not endanger parliamentary security.

"I did so because it is common knowledge that there is camera surveillance in and around Parliament," Savola said, adding that the video footage was taken in a public area and did not contain any intrusive information.

Savola also justified his decision on the grounds that the release of the material shed light on the fact that it was an isolated event and not an attack on democracy or Parliament, adding that he wanted to "calm the turmoil around the issue."

"For my part, I wanted to dispel the perception raised in the media that the events of the US Capitol could take place in Finland as a result of that incident," he said, referring to the storming of the Capitol building in Washington DC which happened the day before the alleged attack on Sipilä.

"Exceptional" case

Secretary-General Paavola told Yle that she considers the release of the footage in this case to be "exceptional".

"We have a clear line that camera recordings are, in principle, confidential. Savola himself has followed this line so far. His procedure differs from previous practice," she said, but would not comment further on whether Savola will be penalised for his actions.

"That will be decided by the Chancellery Committee. I will not comment on that at this stage. I thought that it would be good for Jukka Savola to hear about possible sanctions first before giving the public any opinion on the matter," Paavola added.

Parliament's Chancellery Committee will meet next week to discuss possible sanctions.

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