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Finns Party MP fined €4K over ethnic agitation conviction

The MP says his Facebook updates did not constitute a punishable offence and that he will appeal the verdict.

Sebastian Tynkkynen in court on 3 October. Image: Paulus Markkula / Yle

An Oulu court has slapped Finns Party lawmaker Sebastian Tynkkynen with a 50-day fine after convicting him on charges of ethnic agitation. The total fine amounts to slightly more than 4,000 euros.

The conviction came over texts and images Tynkkynen posted on Facebook back in 2016. According to the court, Tynkkynen’s writings about Islamic groups were premeditated, racist in nature and constituted defamatory hate speech that targetted Muslims and were likely to provoke contempt and even hatred based on intolerance of Islamic groups.

The court ruled that Tynkkynen must have understood that there was a clear connection between the images and texts he posted and that his audience would have understood him to mean that all Muslims are terrorists. The prosecutor originally called for the court to impose a 60-day fine on the defendant.

Second conviction for same offence

Tynkkynen indicated on Thursday that he intends to appeal the verdict and sentence, arguing that his Facebook posts are not a punishable offence.

"An update that defends the security of Europeans and Finns should not result in a 4,000-euro fine," he declared.

The court also ordered the Oulu lawmaker to remove the posts from Facebook and Instagram.

Thursday’s conviction is not the Finns Party MP’s first. He was also convicted of ethnic agitation and breach of religious peace in 2017 and sentenced to pay a 50-day fine at the time.

He is also suspected of another instance of ethnic agitation in another Facebook post in 2017. Oulu police have investigated this case and referred it to local prosecutors for consideration of charges. A decision has not yet been made on the matter.

Finns Party chair: No sanctions from party

Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho said he does not believe that Tynkkynen will face any consequences as a result of his second conviction.

"Of course this is something one dare not say or you might end up in court: it’s not terribly controversial to say that Islamic terrorism is linked to the worship of Allah and it is my understanding that that is the reason for Tynkkynen’s verdict," Halla-aho commented.

The Finns Party chair questioned the conviction and pondered whether or not legislation regarding ethnic agitation was up to date. He called for clarification of that part of the statute and for improvements to its legal certainty.

"The agitation clause seems to be becoming a kind of perpetual motion machine, or a charge-and-convict dispenser that is targetting Finns Party politicians," he remarked.

"To my understanding, Tynkkynen said that Islamic terrorists are linked to the worship of Allah. The judicial system has now apparently declared that it is illegal to say this. This almost absurd interpretation of the law undermines the credibility of the prosecution service and the judiciary," the party leader said.

Finns Party parliamentary group chair Ville Tavio noted that the sentence is not yet enforceable, as an appeal may be pending. As a result the parliamentary group will not take any action regarding the case.

Police are currently investigating suspected ethnic agitation offences involving three other Members of Parliament. They are ex-Christian Democratic Party chair Päivi Räsänen, Hussein al-Taee of the Social Democrats and Juha Mäenpää of the Finns Party.