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Anti-immigrant agitator Ilja Janitskin gets 22-month jail sentence

Ilja Janitskin and two other defendants were also ordered to pay 136,000 euros in damages related to the anti-immigrant website MV-lehti.

File photo from June 2018 of Ilja Janitskin in Helsinki District Court. Image: AOP

Ilja Janitskin - the founder of anti-immigration websites MV-lehti and Uber Uutiset - was found guilty of 16 criminal charges related to his websites and handed a prison sentence of one year and 10 months by Helsinki District Court on Thursday. He was also ordered to pay the lion's share of some 136,000 euros in damages to harassment victims.

Some 90 criminal complaints related to the site were filed in connection with the expansive case, including aggravated defamation and ethnic agitation.

The 16 crimes which Janitskin was convicted of were:

  • Three counts of aggravated defamation
  • Two counts of aggravated incitement against an ethnic group
  • Three counts of copyright infringement
  • Two counts of breach of confidentiality
  • Two counts of illicit gambling charges
  • Four counts of illicit fundraising charges

The court dismissed three other charges against Janitskin.

The court said that from 2014-2018 Janitskin acted as the website’s editor-in-chief, making him responsible for the content contained in - and crimes facilitated by - both the MV-lehti site and Uber Uutiset.

The aggravated defamation charges were related to three complainants: Yle journalist Jessikka Aro who investigated and reported about MV-lehti; a student activist who spearheaded a boycott campaign against companies that advertised on the anti-immigrant news site; and a person who worked on issues about refugees.

The three complainants, according to testimony, had received death threats and offensive messages including ones about their appearance as well as threats of sexual violence, prompted by articles posted on Janitskin's sites.

In one example, a photo of the student activist's face had been photo-shopped onto pornographic images and posted online.

Janitskin was found guilty of two counts of aggravated incitement against ethnic groups on grounds that he permitted the publication of defamatory and threatening articles about Muslims and Jews - or wrote them himself, according to the court.

Copyright infringement, confidentiality breaches

The legal process was extensive and included copyright infringement complaints.

Newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, blogger and journalist Jussi Korhonen and the firm Kaleva365 filed complaints against Janitskin for copyright infringement.

The court said that Janitskin had permitted the copying of materials from the complainants' websites and then posted them on his own.

The court also found Janitskin guilty of breach of confidentiality, saying he published classified documents related to efforts by the Helsinki police department in 2016 to block the MV-lehti and Uber Uutiset sites.

The court also found Janitskin guilty of gambling and fundraising violations, saying his websites had illegally marketed gambling games and fundraised without securing the appropriate permits. The court said the website started new fundraisers after authorities shut down and investigated previous ones.

136,000 euros in damages to victims

Three out of a total of four defendants in the case were convicted: Janitskin, Johan Bäckman a Finnish academic known known for publicly championing Russian child custody rights abroad, and another individual.

The three convicted defendants were ordered to pay a total of 136,000 euros in damages to the victims, the lion's share of which is Janitskin's responsibility.

Janitskin was ordered to personally pay Aro 35,000 euros, plus - along with Bäckman - an additional 10,000 euros.

Janitskin was extradited to Finland from Andorra in April.

Bäckman guilty of harassment, defamation

Bäckman received a one year suspended sentence for harassing and defaming Yle journalist Jessikka Aro and also inciting others to defame her. Bäckman had taken aim at Aro for writing about Russian internet trolls (siirryt toiseen palveluun) trying to influence public discourse in Finland.

The court found that Bäckman’s actions encouraged others to harass the journalist, and that the ordeal seriously affected her quality of life.

Bäckman was convicted of three charges for his role in Aro's harassment: persecution, aggravated defamation and aggravated instigation of defamation.

Bäckman was charged for his activities on social media and by having contacted Aro, he defamed and harassed her in a manner that amounted to persecution, according to the court.

He was found guilty of aggravated defamation because he made false statements saying that Aro was a drug addict and falsely claimed through his Russian channels she was a spy and enemy of the Russian state.

He was found guilty of the defamation charge, according to the court, because he had encouraged Janitskin to publish deraogatory articles about Aro. The court found Bäckman guilty of all the charges filed against him, saying that Aro's account of the course of events was more credible than his.

The court found content on the sites to be racist in nature and the publications defamed and persecuted the injured parties in the case. The site spread disinformation and sensitive information about injured parties’ personal lives, according to the court, and publishing these types of materials held no merit from the perspective of free speech.