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Finns Party's Hakkarainen charged with assaulting and sexually harassing fellow MP

Finns Party MP Teuvo Hakkarainen has been charged with assault and sexual harassment after a complaint by National Coalition MP Veera Ruoho.

Teuvo Hakkarainen and Veera Ruoho. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva /Jouni Immonen / Yle

Controversial Finns Party MP Teuvo Hakkarainen is to face charges over an incident last year in which he 'forcefully kissed' National Coalition Party (NCP) MP Veera Ruoho in parliament during a Christmas party. The trial will be held at Helsinki District court.

The alleged assault occurred at a cafe at parliament when Hakkarainen had stepped out of a Finns Party Christmas celebration held in the building. Witnesses said the sawmill owner-turned-politician had grabbed Ruoho by the neck and attempted to kiss her.

"His grip was such that I was scared for my neck and my mouth hurt as well," said Ruoho, who subsequently reported the incident to police.

Yle's sources suggest that the prosecutor decided on charges last week, and the case is to be heard by Helsinki District court. Hakkarainen said he was none the wiser.

Series of controversies

"I haven't heard anything since I was interviewed," wrote Hakkarainen in a text message.

The Central Finland legislator publicly apologised on Facebook and in person after the incident. Ruoho -- a former Olympian and Finnish Taekwondo champion -- said at the time that her criminal complaint did not indicate that she could not forgive Hakkarainen for his actions.

Hakkarainen received a serious reprimand from the Finns Party parliamentary group in December. Helsingin Sanomat reported on Monday that Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho had no intention of bringing further disciplinary action against Hakkarainen at this stage.

Hakkarainen has faced repeated controversies since arriving in parliament in 2011 over his use of racist and homophobic language, and in January 2017 was convicted of agitating against an ethnic group.

In the summer of 2017 Finns Party faithful voted in Hakkarainen as the party's second deputy-chair at the same congress where Halla-aho assumed the leadership from party founder Timo Soini. The party split in two after that result, leaving the Finns Party MPs in opposition. They later formed a breakaway 'Blue Reform' faction including Soini that remained in government.