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Six Helsinki police officers suspected of crimes for pepper spraying protesters

A nearly year-long preliminary probe into the 2020 incident is complete and the Deputy Prosecutor General will decide whether to take the case to court.

All of the officers have denied committing the assault and breach of duty offenses. Image: Elokapina
Yle News

Six Helsinki police officers are suspected of crimes for pepper spraying protesters during a climate change protest in the capital last October.

Three of the officers are suspected of assault and breach of duty while another three are suspected of the same offences for making the decision to pepper spray the protesters who blocked traffic for hours on a major road in the Kaisaniemi neighbourhood.

A preliminary investigation into the early October 2020 incident has been closed, and the case is headed to the prosecutor's office.

All of the officers have denied having committed the offences.

According to special prosecutor Heidi Savurinne, who headed up the preliminary probe, the central question in the case was whether the officers' use of force was in line with the law and whether the use of pepper spray was proportionate to the situation.

"The prosecution will assess whether use of the spray was in breach of, or in accordance with, the officers' official duties as well as whether the individuals involved had been harmed intentionally, for example were caused pain and suffering," Savurinne said.

The Deputy Prosecutor General will decide whether to take the case to court.

The incident in question took place on Saturday 3 October, when the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion (Elokapina in Finnish) held a protest at the intersection of Kaisaniemenkatu and Unioninkatu, blocking traffic for about six hours. Several police patrols responded to the protest, which called for action on climate change.

More recently, the activist group began a 10-day protest on Helsinki's busiest thoroughfare on Wednesday evening. The group has demanded that the government declare a climate and environmental emergency.

Last year the incident sparked heated commentary on social media, with several lawmakers, including the interior minister, weighing in on the discussion.

2.10: Name corrected to Savurinne.

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