Burden of proof for terrorism cases too high in Finland, says Supo chief

Criminal justice professor Matti Tolvanen shot down the Security Intelligence Service's claim.

The Finnish Security Intelligence Service is concerned about radicalisation. Image: Yle / Uutisgrafiikka

Chief Antti Pelttari of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) said in an interview on Saturday that the burden of proof for terrorism in Finland is too high. He also claimed that radicalised persons may be drawn to Finland from abroad due to the allegedly high standard of proof.

Professor of criminal justice Matti Tolvanen from the University of Eastern Finland strongly opposed Pelttari's views.

"The burden of proof under the law is the same for all crimes," Tolvanen told media group Lännen Media. "If a court finds there to be viable suspicion of a defendant's guilt, the charges must be dropped. It is very straightforward. We can't apply different standards of proof for different crimes."

The professor also said he did not believe Pelttari's claim that Finland's burden of proof is higher than in other Nordic countries.

Tolvanen said nonetheless that finding evidence for a terrorist crime is an especially difficult task.

"How can we prove the guilt of someone who sends money to someone abroad who is planning an act of terror? Or if someone travels to another country to prepare or carry out such an act? Police have a hard time gathering enough evidence to convince a court."

Many money-related terrorism cases have been dropped in Finland for the very reason that gathering proof of terrorism from a foreign and sometimes war-torn country can pose a serious bureaucratic challenge.

Supo has investigated a total of 27 suspected terrorism cases in the last five years. About one hundred preliminary investigations into possible terrorist acts were also carried out, with only the Turku stabbing case of 2017 leading to a conviction.