Finns Party MP on trial for incitement charges, faces heavy fines

The case involves Facebook posts from May 2020, which targeted immigrants and asylum seekers

Peltokangas has been charged with incitement against a group of people Image: Kalle Niskala / Yle

The trial of Finns Party MP Mauri Peltokangas, who has been charged with incitement against a group of people, began at Ostrobothnia District Court on Wednesday.

Peltokangas, an MP from the Vaasa constituency, is standing trial for Facebook posts from 2020, in which he "slandered and abused" immigrants and asylum seekers, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors are demanding that Peltokangas be made to pay a minimum of 40 income-linked day-fines as well as a victim charge (generally paid by an offender to fund support services for victims) of 80 euros.

The prosecution has also called for any offending messages that can still be viewed by the public to be removed immediately.

According to District Prosecutor Kosti Kurvinen, Peltokangas used expressions and phrases which strongly suggested that immigrants are "inferior".

"The posts are likely to create hatred and contempt towards the groups in question," he said, pointing out that Peltokangas could have chosen to use less offensive language.

MP pleads innocence

Peltokangas has denied the allegations and is demanding that the charges be dropped. He is also calling for the state to reimburse his legal expenses.

"The posts contain my opinions. I do not insult or slander anyone. I express hope that those who are officially refused entry by Migri leave Finland. I was merely criticising the actions of those who do not leave, not attacking them personally," he stated in court.

Kari Uoti,an aide to Peltokangas, has defended the Facebook posts, claiming that their "playful" language indicates they should not be interpreted as a threat.

"Political speech can only be restricted on the most compelling, legitimate grounds," he said.

The district court will determine whether the social media posts constitute a crime as per legal definitions pertaining to incitement to national, racial and religious hatred. The court is expected to issue its ruling on 15 December.

This is not the first time that Peltokangas, who is a key member of the Finnish far-right nationalist association Suomen Sisu, has courted controversy.

The MP created a stir last year when he referred to ministers in Prime Minister Sanna Marin's (SDP) cabinet as "pathetic assholes" in a Facebook post.

He is also known for posting videos and statements in which he takes a strong stance against immigration.