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Daily: Foreign Minister suspected of two offences over al-Hol flap

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has denied any wrongdoing over the repatriation of Finns from the Syrian refugee camp.

Ulkoministeri Pekka Haavisto saapui hallituksen neuvotteluihin Säätytalolle Helsingissä 8. heinäkuuta.
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto at the House of Estates on Wednesday, 8 July. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) suspects Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto of official misconduct and unwillingness to cooperate, according to daily Helsingin Sanomat.

The alleged offences took place last autumn when Haavisto decided to re-assign consular chief Pasi Tuominen following a disagreement over a plan to repatriate Finnish citizens from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria to Finland. Haavisto later apologised to Tuominen and offered him the option of resuming his position.

Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee called on prosecutors to probe the matter and they in turn handed the case over to police for a preliminary investigation. On Monday the NBI said in a statement that it had concluded the preliminary investigation and that the case had been referred to the Office of the Prosecutor General for consideration of charges.

Haavisto was asked to comment on the development at a press conference held on Wednesday to announce the further lifting of travel restrictions in Finland.

The minister said he cannot comment on a matter that is being probed by the Constitutional Law Committee and said that his work will continue as usual for now.

Haavisto has denied committing any offences during the course of the investigation, HS said. The paper cited sources indicating that investigators had concluded that there was reason to suspect the minister of abuse of office.

Haavisto survives confidence vote

Last autumn the minister came under intense scrutiny for allegedly trying to push through a plan to evacuate about 30 children and half a dozen women from the Syrian refugee camp at al-Hol. There was speculation that his move to re-assign Tuominen was an attempt to eliminate opposition to the plan.

Haavisto later survived a confidence vote over the issue that was spearheaded by the Finns Party, however the Constitutional Law Committee decided to refer the matter to investigators.

The Committee is expected to prepare a final report once prosecutors come to a decision on charges. A decision on possible prosecution will be determined by a vote of the 200 MPs in parliament. Charges brought by parliament will be dealt with in the national court.

The story was updated at 21:08 to include Pekka Haavisto's comment.

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