In a press conference held on Wednesday morning, MP Olli Immonen was flanked by his party superiors (but with Finns Party leader Timo Soini visibly absent) when he announced that he's applied for and been granted a 2-month leave from his parliamentary duties. He said that as Finland is in a difficult situation economically, and employment- and immigration-wise, his party needs to address these issues and not deal with the fallout from his controversial text.
The move will see Immonen remain a member of the party and remain in parliament, though by being outside the parliamentary group he will no longer be subject to the group's directives.
Immonen admitted the measure will not affect his work in parliament, and he said he will continue to serve on committees.
Immonen accused the media of twisting his words for what he described as "sensational headlines", and criticised them for reprinting Facebook photos he had recently posted of himself posing with members of a neo-Nazi group at the grave of nationalist Eugen Schauman. "I don't have any ties to extremist groups on the Far Right or the Far Left," he said, adding that when the photo was taken he was not aware that the group he posed represented the Finnish National Resistance Movement.
"Many media outlets claim that my Facebook post was published on the anniversary of Utøya, but that's not the case," he said. The Utøya massacre took place on July 22, 2011 when mass murderer Anders Breivik took the lives of 69 people on the Norwegian island. Immonen's post appeared two days after the anniversary of the massacre.
He went on to state that he opposes multiculturalism and believes a uniform culture is better. He claimed that in many countries immigration brings ghettos, alienation, crime and radicalization -- "I oppose all those things" -- and insisted that Finland has succeeded because people of the same background have pulled together.
Although his July Facebook post was published in English for all to see, he insisted that it was meant to encourage his friends and not intended as a public statement by a politician.
15.45 This article was updated to clarify that by stepping down from the parliamentary group Immonen will continue to serve in parliament.