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Helsinki youth gang attack case goes to court

The prosecutor says 15 masked men in their 20s — carrying baseball bats, knives and a firearm — took part in attacking and robbing two teens in late March.

Defendants in the Pikku Huopalahti attack case concealing their faces at Helsinki District Court on Wednesday. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

A criminal trial against a large group of young men accused of a violent attack and robbery of two teens began at Helsinki District Court on Wednesday.

Fifteen men, aged between 21 and 26, were facing charges of aggravated assault and aggravated theft in an incident which took place on 27 March in Helsinki's Pikku Huopalahti neighbourhood.

The prosecutor said that the men had violently seized a 16-year-old boy's cell phone and had also beaten a 17-year-old male.

According to the indictment, some of the defendants gathered at the Jumbo shopping centre in Vantaa before carrying out the act, with at least five of them bringing baseball bats and disposable gloves to the violent crime scene.

That group, according to the prosecution, then drove to Pikku Huopalahti, where they donned disposable gloves and disguised their faces with masks. Members of the group were also allegedly carrying several knives and a firearm in their vehicles.

The men allegedly surrounded and attacked the 16-year-old victim and took his phone then began beating the 17-year-old boy, kicking and stabbing him in the leg.

After the assaults, the prosecutor accused the group of departing the scene in their cars, with police catching up with them on the city's Mannerheimintie thoroughfare.

According to the prosecutor, all 15 defendants were involved in the crimes by taking part in either planning or taking part in the attack, driving the cars to the site of the assault or stealing the boy's phone.

Prosecutor: 'Outrageous' attack

The prosecutor characterised the group's violence against the minors as particularly brutal and cruel.

The second charge facing the group was aggravated theft rather than aggravated robbery.

Additionally, one of the defendants faces an illegal drugs charge and a charge of providing false information to authorities. The individual was allegedly found with a small amount of cannabis in his possession and gave a fake name to the police as he was being detained.

The prosecution has demanded that the men face prison sentences for their crimes.

During the pre-trial investigation, police noted that the suspects were exceptionally quiet about the events surrounding the incident, saying that a large number of the accused refused to answer investigators' questions.

The motives behind the attacks remain unclear, according to police. Authorities suspect that the original targets of the planned attack was another group of men carrying knives who were apprehended by police in the relatively nearby Pitäjänmäki neighbourhood around the time of the incident.

Some of the defendants were known to have previously committed violent acts and drug offences. Most of the group have been in police detention since the day of the attack while others have been detained since 24 April.

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