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Expert: Neo-Nazi group crackdown would also criminalise its propaganda

If Finnish authorities move to outlaw the neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement, the organisation would no longer have the right to organise demonstrations or even maintain a website. According to Association Law expert Lauri Tarasti, a ban would also bar the Sweden-based Nordic Resistance Movement from operating in Finland.

Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

On Thursday the National Police Board signalled that it intended to file a court motion to shut down the neo-Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement (FRM) early in 2017.

Once the motion has been filed, the Helsinki District Court will call on the group to respond to the matter. The court will also invite both sides to an oral hearing.

If the court rules that the organisation’s activities violate Finnish Association Law, it will be disbanded. In essence such a ruling would mean that it would then be illegal for members to engage in fundraising activities. Police would also no longer provide protection at demonstrations, said legal expert Lauri Tarasti.

"Organised meetings as an association would then become a punishable act. They would not be able to continue any kind of activity in the name of an unregistered association," he added.

All forms of propaganda illegal

Once the group has been outlawed, FRM would also be barred from distributing propaganda, from putting up bills on lampposts to maintaining a website.

The ban would also cover the Nordic Resistance Movement –  an umbrella association linking similar groups in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the UK – in the event it wants to organise any activity in Finland.

"It could be said that it would be perpetuating the activity of a disbanded organisation and therefore illegal."

However the actions of isolated individuals would have to be separately evaluated to determine whether or not they act in the name of any organisation. Such individuals would still be prohibited from using symbols associated with the neo-Nazi group, even if they deny doing so.

"It’s clear that it would be the same operation, even if it had a different name," Tarasti noted. The penalty for operating an illegal association is a fine.

Previous ban 40 years ago

The last time Finnish authorities engaged in a similar crackdown was in the late 70s, when four organisations led by neo-Nazi Pekka Siitoinen were banned. At the time the court pointed to the Paris peace agreement, which prohibited fascist or anti-Soviet military or para-military organizations.

"This is now a similar situation to the one around the Siitoinen case. No doubt this will also be invoked [by the police board]. If conditions have not changed, we can assume that the end result will be pretty much the same," Tarasti declared.