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Court dismisses charges against police, guards over alleged forced removal of hijabs

In its ruling, the Kanta-Häme District Court said it did not find the evidence given by the female asylum seekers to be reliable.

File photo of Kanta-Häme District Court. Image: Nina Keski-Korpela / Yle

The Kanta-Häme District Court has cleared a total of seven defendants — comprising police officers and security guards — of all charges in relation to an incident in which female asylum seekers claimed they were forced to remove their head coverings.

The incident occured in May 2017 in the city of Hämeenlinna, when the women refused to remove their hijabs for police to take registration photos.

According to the indictment, an inspector of the Häme Police Department ordered his officers to remove the women's scarves, by force if necessary.

The prosecutor in the case told the court that the women resisted, leading to the defendants pushing them against a wall before finally removing their scarves and taking the photographs.

The prosecutor called on the court to find the defendants guilty of assault, incitement to assault and breach of duty.

However, in its ruling, the district court said it found the women's account of the course of events to be "unusual and implausible" without the support of further evidence.

In addition, the court said it found the defendants' accounts more reliable and their account of the events more likely than the women's versions.

Required guidelines

The inspector in charge of registering asylum seekers at the Häme Police Department told the women, and his subordinates, that the registration photos must be taken without head coverings.

However, according to the National Police Board's guidelines for the taking of such photos, if a person is wearing a "headscarf or veil" which is related to their religious beliefs, the photos must be taken both with and without the covering.

This means that, in certain circumstances, the photo of the woman not wearing her head scarf should be taken by a female civil servant, so as to respect the values and religious beliefs of the person being photographed.

Women were restrained

The court heard that the police moved one of the women from the registration room to the corridor and back again, and restrained her while she was struggling and screaming by holding her hands.

The other woman, who was also struggling and shouting, was also restrained by the defendants holding her hands, the court heard.

These restraining methods caused injuries to the women, which the prosecution told the court were not minor. In addition, the prosecutor said, the actions of the police and the security guards violated the fundamental and human rights of the women.

According to the court, however, the defendants did not intend to hurt the women, nor did they believe that they had acted in violation of the law.

The court therefore found that the force used was necessary and justifiable.

The district court's verdict is not final, meaning it can be appealed to a higher court.

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