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Finns Party MP given "stern words" for posing with Nazi group

The chair of the Finns Party parliamentary group, Sampo Terho, tells Yle he has cautioned fellow MP Olli Immonen for posting a photograph showing himself among a group of far-right national socialists. But Terho insists he has no control over the affiliations of his party's MPs.

This photograph was posted by Finns MP Olli Immonen on Facebook Wednesday. Image: Ruutukaappaus Olli Immosen Facebook-sivuilta / Yle

Finns Party parliamentary group chair Sampo Terho says he has "spoken sternly" with Finns MP Olli Immonen concerning a photograph Immonen posted online showing himself with members of a neo-Nazi militant group.

Immonen was photographed standing among members of the "Finnish Resistance Movement", an organisation which has been linked with a number of armed attacks on gay rights protestors, and with a stabbing at a 2013 book launch.

The group was posing at the grave of Eugen Schauman, a Finnish nationalist who assassinated Russian Governor-General Nikolai Bobrikov in 1904.

No control over MPs' affiliations

Speaking in an Yle radio interview on Thursday, Sampo Terho insisted that, as chairman of the parliamentary group, he has no power over what Finns Party MP's do in their spare time or who they associate with.

"But I can and have told Immonen that caution is warranted when it comes to public photos like the one in question," Terho said on Radio 1's Ykkösaamu. "I had stern words with him."

The response is likely to reignite long-running criticism that those at the top of the Finns Party should take a tougher line on MPs who demonstrate extreme-right affiliations or make racist comments.

Leader Timo Soini has been repeatedly forced to defend his decision not to sack his prominent MP Jussi Halla-Aho after the latter was convicted of inciting racial hatred.

However one MP, James Hirvisaari, was expelled from the Finns Party in 2013 after inviting a far-right activist into Parliament and photographing him performing Nazi salutes.

Not acted politically

Terho said that Immonen, who is also chair of the nationalist organisation "Suomen Sisu", insisted that he did not act politically either in attending the memorial service or by posting the image.

Terho also said Immonen claimed he had not invited the people in the picture to attend.

"I've told him that a member of parliament has to exercise caution even when not attending an event as a representative of the party," Terho said.

19.6 This article was amended to include more detail about the background to Friday's interview with Terho.