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Update: Suspected MP Zyskowicz attacker released from custody, police say

The lead investigator and the prosecutor did not consider that conditions were met for the suspect to be held in remand.

Mies hyökkää Ben Zyskowiczin kimppuun Itäkeskuksessa.
A 38-year-old man seen assaulting Ben Zyskowicz — a veteran MP and former longtime leader of the National Coalition Party parliamentary group — on Saturday in eastern Helsinki. Image: Lukijan kuva
Yle News,

A 38-year-old man suspected of assaulting and threatening longtime MP Ben Zyskowicz (NCP) over the weekend was released from custody on Monday, Helsinki police announced in a press release.

The leading investigator and the prosecutor did not consider that conditions were met for the suspect to be held in remand.

Police said they are continuing to investigate the case and are aiming to question more eyewitnesses of Saturday's incident.

Authorities have also been in contact with Zyskowicz, police said in the release, adding that no further information about the case will be provided for the time being.

Suspect: Incident not planned

Earlier on Monday, police said the suspect told investigators that his actions were unplanned and spontaneous.

Around noon on Saturday, Zyskowicz — a veteran MP and former longtime leader of the National Coalition Party's parliamentary group — was attacked while campaigning in Helsinki's Itäkeskus neighbourhood.

He was knocked to the ground, suffering cuts and abrasions on his hands and knees.

Describing Saturday's violent altercation, Zyskowicz said the man insulted him over his Judaism and support for Finland's membership of Nato. Zyskowicz's father was a Polish Jew who survived two Nazi concentration camps.

On Monday, Helsinki police's chief investigator in the case, Tommi Lehtonen, told news service STT that the suspect confirmed that there was a verbal exchange that raised his emotions before the incident turned violent.

"The suspect has basically admitted the events [as explained] were true, that this happened," Lehtonen told Yle.

He did not however wish to comment on whether the case has the characteristics of a hate crime.

MP on the attack

The incident began below ground, on a platform of the Itäkeskus Metro station.

"The man started shouting about Nato and how he would like to kill me and push me under the subway, which was behind me," Zyskowicz explained.

Then, the incident continued on the street, near the Metro station.

"After that, he hit my face with his hand, but nothing worse happened," Zyskowicz explained, who noted that his attacker did not seem mentally unstable or intoxicated.

The veteran politician asked members of his campaign team to take pictures of the man, "because at that point I thought he would get away."

Above ground, the man allegedly continued to speak to the MP about Judaism, and then ran up to Zyskowicz and wrestled him to the ground, before backing off.

Security apprehended the suspect immediately after the altercation and police then placed him under arrest. A decision about whether to remand the suspect in custody needs to be made by noon on Tuesday.

Rare occurrence

Lehtonen added that investigators were looking into what kind of information about the incident can be gained from people other than the suspect.

Assaults on politicians are rare in Finland, and Saturday's incident caught the attention of both the country's president and prime minister.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) called the incident "shocking and completely reprehensible", while President Sauli Niinistö condemned what he called a "cowardly attack".

Advance voting continues until Tuesday ahead of next Sunday's parliamentary election. Zyskowicz's NCP is running narrowly ahead of Marin's SDP and the nationalist Finns Party in opinion polls.

Edited at 16:48 to add that the suspect in the incident was released from police custody on Monday.

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