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Prosecutor: Attempted murder of party official was a crime not seen in 90 years in Finland

The attack occurred at Finns Party aide Pekka Kataja's home in July 2020.

Attackers used this fake package to persuade Pekka Kataja to let them in to his house. Image: Poliisin esitutkintapöytäkirja

A man went on trial on Tuesday accused of attempting to murder an official in the Finns Party in what the prosecution says was a politically-motivated attack.

Prosecutors added that a similar attack has not occurred in Finland since the 1930s. At that time the far-right Lapua Movement committed several acts of political violence.

The defendant, a man born in 1979 who is resident in Tuusula, denies all charges in the case, which is tried this week at the district court in Jyväskylä.

Planning crucial

State prosecutor Mika Appelsin and regional prosecutor Janne Kangas are trying the case. They say that on 17 July 2020 two men arrived at Pekka Kataja's front door in Jämsä and said they had a package for Kataja from the Finns Party office.

Prosecutors say the package indicates a level of planning in the attack, as it was used to trick Kataja into lowering his guard.

Kataja told Yle at the time that the explanation was credible and he believed them. When he opened the door, the second man barged into the house and began to strike Kataja with a hard, blunt instrument, possibly a hammer.

According to the prosecutor the violence was sustained and showed that the attackers' objective was to kill Kataja. Prosecutors say that one of the men struck Kataja around 20 times in the head, breaking his skull, and the men kept kicking him after he fell to the floor until he lost consciousness.

Motive linked to Torssonen

Prosecutors have said that the method speaks to the personal motives behind the attack.

Kataja told Yle last year that he had his wallet in his hand when the attack happened, so that could not have been a motive.

Police originally suspected Jyväskylä City Councillor Teemu Torssonen, who was previously elected on the Finns Party ticket in 2017.

Kataja, the head of elections in the Central Finland region, had been one of those who prevented Torssonen from running as a Finns Party candidate in the 2019 parliamentary election.

Torssonen was in custody for several months on suspicion of involvement in the crime. During his detention police began to suspect he had staged a politically-motivated robbery of his car in order to avoid losing his firearms license.

He is no longer suspected of involvement in the attack on Kataja, but the defendant in the trial is a supporter of Torssonen and prosecutors suspect he shared Torssonen's bitterness towards Kataja.

Evidence of links

The police investigation uncovered evidence that the defendant and Torssonen had been in contact, and there was evidence of animosity towards the victim.

Police did not find messages relating to the attempted murder, and according to prosecutors that is in itself evidence of pre-meditation.

It became clear in the investigation that Torssonen and the accused were not in regular contact. But on 16 July, the day before the attack on Kataja, they were in touch.

Police were unable to recover those messages but say that Torssonen used a prepaid sim card for that communication. After the attack both accused and Torssonen wiped their phones and computers, and performed a factory reset.

Mobile movement data did not prove the accused's presence in Jämsänkoski on the day of the attack, but the prosecutor says that is because they did not take their phones with them.

According to information uncovered by Yle, the defendant's fingerprints were found on the fake package left at Kataja's house.

Prosecutors say the attackers' Volkswagen Passat was filmed by security cameras at a local petrol station on the day of the attack. The defence disputes that, saying the car is common enough to raise doubt about that. The registration number is not visible from the footage.

Yle has asked the defence team to comment several times, but they have declined. In court on Tuesday however, the 41-year-old defendant denied the charges and said he was in Tuusula on the day of the attack.

He has published English-language material on far-right websites, presented under his own name.