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Nationalist organisation chair stands trial for defamation against police, officials

The prosecutor is demanding Marco de Wit be imprisoned or ordered to carry out community service.

Marco de Witt, Suomi ensin -yhdistyksen varapuheenjohtaja 18.5.2017 Rautatientorilla
File photo of Finnish Nation First chair Geurt Marco de Wit. Image: Mårten Lampén / Yle
Yle News

A defamation case against Geurt Marco de Wit, chair of the ultranationalist and anti-immigrant organisation Finnish Nation First, began in Pirkanmaa District Court on Tuesday.

The "exceptionally large" action against de Wit was brought by 20 plaintiffs, among them police officers, prosecutors and a judge.

According to the prosecution, de Wit allegedly defamed the plaintiffs on his website (roughly translated as "illegal magazine"). In addition, de Wit is alleged to have published defamatory videos and texts elsewhere online. He denies the charges, although he does not dispute that the alleged defamatory statements exist.

Intended to 'incite hostility'

According to the prosecution, de Wit's publications included the accusations that officials were prejudiced, perjurers, imposters, unqualified for their jobs and criminals.

"De Wit's publications were also intended to incite hostility towards various groups of people, intensify social confrontation and unjustifiably undermine people's trust in the police and judicial authorities," the indictment said.

According to the prosecution, de Wit also suggested that the police officers belonged to an alleged pedophile ring, and were sympathetic to terrorists and the Islamisation of Finland.

De Wit has previously been handed down a suspended sentence for violently resisting an official in the performance of duties, two counts of insubordination against police officers, and obstructing an officer.

Defendant denies charges

Not all parties in the case filed for prosecution, but Attorney General Raija Toiviainen pushed for prosecution as a matter of very important public interest.

According to the prosecution, systematic pressure on officials creates a misconception that an official in public service should tolerate any form of insult, intimidation or abuse. The prosecutor is demanding de Wit receive a prison term of 8 to 10 months, or be ordered to carry out community service.

De Wit has denied the charges, arguing that while the existence of the publications themselves is not in dispute, the criticism is justified on the grounds that it is directed at the conduct of the plaintiffs in public office.

"I am absolutely innocent, and this [case] is revenge by politicised officials because the Laitonlehti website writes critically and very reasonably about the activities of these authorities," de Wit told Yle last October.

At the same time, he also denied writing in a vulgar manner, arguing that that calling police officers "perverts" and "child sexual fantasists" was a legitimate critique of the fact that uniformed police attended the Helsinki Pride parade.

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