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Use of Erdogan effigy by Helsinki protestors not a crime, police say

Due to officers intervening at the March protest, the offence was filed as attempted defamation rather than defamation, which would be punishable.

Photo shows the effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that appeared at the protest in Helsinki.
The effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which appeared at the Helsinki protest in March. Image: Kurdistan-solidaarisuusverkosto
Yle News

Helsinki police have completed a high-profile investigation into an incident at a demonstration in the capital in March when demonstrators attempted to smear blood on an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The protest was held in front of the Turkish Embassy in the Kaivopuisto district of Helsinki by an international pro-Kurdish organisation called Rise Up 4 Rojava.

In a statement on Monday, Helsinki police said the attempt to smear blood on the effigy did not constitute a crime under Finnish law.

"The offence was reduced to an attempt due to the preventive action of the police at the time. Attempted defamation is not punishable under Finnish criminal law. Therefore, there is no reason to suspect a crime in this case," Detective Inspector Juha-Matti Suominen said in the press release.

The incident came at a highly-sensitive time in Finnish-Turkish relations as Turkey's Parliament was preparing to debate Finland's application to join Nato, following months of delays.

These delays, prompted by Ankara, were partly caused by a similar incident in January in Sweden when demonstrators hung an effigy of Erdogan from its legs in front of Stockholm City Hall. Turkish officials voiced outrage over the incident and Turkey has still not yet ratified Sweden's bid to join Nato.

Although the Helsinki incident did not garner as much media attention in Turkey, there were fears it could have derailed diplomatic efforts at a critical time in Finland's accession process.

The organisers of the Rise Up 4 Rojava event had informed police in advance that the effigy would be used as a prop in a dance performance. However, as the demonstration continued, police received information that protesters were planning to smear blood on the effigy.

Recognising that such an act would meet the definition of the crime of defamation, Suominen said that officers at the protest stepped in to intervene.

Two other cases related to the defamation of Erdoğan's image are still under investigation.

"The cases involve several offences, including unlawful threats, breach of peace and possession of an object or substance capable of harming another," the police press release said.

Suominen said that protestors were found to be carrying a variety of weapons, or potential weapons, at the demonstration, including a gas canister and a knife.

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