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Neo-Nazi faces manslaughter charges in Helsinki court

A leader of a Finnish neo-Nazi group has gone on trial in Helsinki in connection with a fatal assault on a man during a demonstration by the Finnish Resistance Movement.

A small group of Finnish Resistance Movement members held a demonstration in central Helsinki on September 10. Image: Yle

On Wednesday, one of the founders of a Finnish neo-Nazi group went on trial at Helsinki District Court on manslaughter charges. He is suspected of causing the death of a man who was assaulted during a demonstration by the far-right Finnish Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a 'national socialist'.

Jesse Torniainen, 26, is suspected of aggravated manslaughter and aggravated assault in the death of a passerby who died a few days after the incident by Helsinki Railway Station on September 10. He denies any wrongdoing. The prosecutor is seeking a tough sentence of 5.5-6 years in prison, citing the suspect's record of violent crime and the context of his membership in a racist organisation.

"Racist clowns"

District Prosecutor Anja-Riitta Rinkinen tells Yle that the events on Railway Square began with the victim spitting on the ground and saying something about "racist clowns" while members of the extremist group were holding a demonstration.

"This was immediately followed by a powerful leaping kick to the victim's chest, whereupon he fell backwards. He suffered a severe head injury," she says.

The prosecutor is seeking a toughening of the sentence based on unusual extenuating circumstances.

"This is a case of an act directed at a person who opposed racist incitement," says Rinkinen, adding that it took place within the context of the defendant's membership in a racist group.

Defence attorney cites media coverage

She dismissed witnesses' accounts whereby the 28-year-old victim had used intoxicants before the incident and during the few days he spent in hospital after the attack. He was discharged from the hospital but died at home on September 16, six days after the incident.

"As far as I can see, the use of intoxicants did not play a role in his death," Rinkinen says.

Torniainen's lawyer, Hannu Tuomainen, says his client admits to being guilty of simple assault but not aggravated manslaughter. He also argues that there has been excessive media coverage of the case.

A ruling is to be handed down in the case on December 30.

6:21 pm: Added length of prison term sought by prosecutor and ruling date.