Finnish police aim to ban neo-Nazi group

Law enforcement officials are moving to ban a far-right group linked to a series of violent incidents around Finland since 2010. The announcement came a day after one of the neo-Nazi organisation's leaders went on trial for manslaughter.

Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen described the neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement as "violent and openly racist". Image: Nella Nuora / Yle

The National Police Board will seek a court order to outlaw a neo-Nazi group called the Finnish Resistance Movement.

The organisation, which describes itself as 'national socialist', has been under close scrutiny since last September, when a man died after being assaulted during one of its demonstrations in Helsinki.

One of the extremist group's founders, 28-year-old Jesse Torniainen, went on trial on Wednesday over that incident.

"Violent and openly racist"

On Thursday National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen said that early next year authorities will ask a court to ban the group, which he described as "violent and openly racist".

He says that while the group – now billed as part of the Nordic Resistance Movement – is not officially registered, it is still operates as an ideological association.

Therefore it can be shut down under the Associations Act, which forbids groups from engaging in criminal or improper behaviour, the commissioner argues.

"We see the activities of the Nordic Resistance Movement as fundamentally violating the law and proper behaviour, so it is justified to file a lawsuit and bring the matter before a court," said Kolehmainen.

"The activities of a violent and openly racist organisation should not be given a place in Finnish society," he added.

Risk of driving extremism underground

However some experts on extremism – including Esa Henrik Holappa, who co-founded the group but has since renounced it – argue that outlawing the organisation would be counterproductive, simply pushing it underground and making it harder to monitor.

Members of the group have had a hand in a number of violent incidents over the years. They included a pepper-spray attack on a Helsinki Pride March in 2010, a stabbing at a discussion event at Jyväskylä's main library in 2013 and a riot in the same city in the summer of 2015.

That same summer, members of the Finnish Resistance Movement posed for a photograph with MP Olli Immonen and other members of Foreign Minister Timo Soini's populist Finns Party.