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True Finns Councillor Fined for Defaming Religion

Jussi Halla-aho, a member of the Helsinki City Council, has been found guilty of defamation of religion by the Helsinki District Court. He was ordered to pay a fine of 330 euros. However, the court dismissed a charge of inciting hatred against an ethnic group.

Jussi Halla-aho Image: YLE

Prosecutor Simo Kolehmainen said Halla-aho had publicly defamed the Islamic faith in his blog writings. Halla-aho has also written derogatory statements about Somali immigrants on his internet site.

The prosecutor said Halla-aho’s writings insulted Muslims residing in Finland and endangered religious peace.

Halla-aho admitted to writing the comments, but denied that they were intended to defame. He said the comments had been taken out of context, adding that he was not guilty of any criminal offence.

Soini: Halla-aho Verdict Affects True Finns Party

Timo Soini, chair of the small opposition True Finns party, says that Tuesday's verdict will have an impact on the reputation of the party. Halla-aho was elected to the Helsinki City Council as an independent candidate on the True Finns ticket.

“It has certainly labelled Jussi Halla-aho as a person, and the True Finns indirectly, but it was Halla-aho who was on trial, and not the True Finns party,” said Soini.

Soini added that the Halla-aho story is not over, as he plans to appeal his sentence to the Court of Appeals, and that a final decision will come in the Supreme Court.

“Only the final court decision will affect my opinion. It could affect my deliberation in future when other non-aligned candidates are selected,” he said.

Minority Ombudsman Seeks Clearer Rules

Responding to the case, Minority Ombudsman Johanna Suurpää told YLE that monitoring of the web is still scanty and that there are few clear rules about what kinds of statements are legal. Bringing someone to justice for online slander seems to happen randomly, she says.

Suurpää says that clearer laws are needed, noting that hate speech has an impact on the everyday lives of minorities.