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Court finds racist motive, hands down stiffer sentence in Lahti stabbing case

A district court had not seen any racist motive in a stabbing attack that took place in downtown Lahti last August, but an appeal court ruled otherwise.

Image: Emilia Malin / Yle

The Eastern Finland Court of Appeal has handed down a harsher sentence for a stabbing attack in Lahti last August over what it deemed was a racist motive.

The higher court ruled that the two men previously convicted for the violent act had used racial slurs against the victim.

The court increased the previous sentences by four months, slapping one of the men with a five-year, four-month prison sentence for attempted manslaughter. The other defendant received a four-year, three-month jail sentence for the same charge.

The district court had also ordered the men to pay damages to the victim, and fined two other individuals involved in the late-night mêlée.

Handgun and knife used in attack

The crimes occurred outside a restaurant in downtown Lahti in August 2017. The defendants and the victim had been previously unknown to each other, but reportedly were involved in a confrontation inside the restaurants when one of the defendants pushed him and used a racial slur. A scuffle ensued and spilled out into the street.

One of the convicted men had tried to shoot the victim with a pistol, but it failed to discharge. He then stabbed the victim with a knife provided by the other defendant, who also held the victim down.

In the district court proceedings, the prosecution had called for a tougher sentence, arguing that the crime had a racist motive. However the lower court did not agree with the argument.

The court found that although the perpetrators used racial slurs against the victim, the plaintiff did not believe that he had been targeted because of race, skin colour or ethnic background.

An Åbo Akademi study recently found that although Finnish law allows for harsher penalties to be applied to crimes found to have a racist motivation, the provision is rarely used.

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