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Finland's Greens party legal officer kicked off plane for protesting fellow passenger's deportation

The Greens party legal officer was escorted from a plane at Helsinki Airport after she refused to sit down, in protest of a fellow passenger's deportation.

Aino Pennanen lentokoneessa
Screen shot of Greens party legal officer Aino Pennanen's live video stream on Tuesday. Image: Aino Pennanen

On Tuesday police at Helsinki Airport removed Aino Pennanen, the legal officer of Finland's Greens party, from a plane for refusing to be seated. Pennanen said she was protesting the deportation of a fellow passenger.

Police cited Pennanen for causing an aviation misdemeanour but she is not suspected of having committed a crime.

Pennanen broadcast live video of her protest on Facebook as it unfolded on Tuesday. The plane's departure was delayed by about ten minutes.

In the video, the Greens' legal officer announced that she was refusing to follow the instructions of flight attendants after she noticed that another passenger was being forcibly repatriated.

Pennanen told Helsingin Sanomat that she had not planned the airplane protest in advance, and that she did not know to which country the deportee was being taken.

"We have deep-rooted problems in our system. That is why I wanted to stand up and help that person. It was not about a flight it is a problem in our justice system," she told the paper.

Similar incident in Sweden last week

Tuesday's incident was similar to one which took place in Sweden last week, when an activist named Elin Ersson protested the deportation of an Afghan citizen who was on the plane, according to the Guardian.

However, in that case, Ersson received the support of several passengers on the plane and the Afghan deportee was eventually removed from the plane before it took off. Ersson also live-streamed last week's incident on Facebook.

Chair of the Greens, Touko Aalto wrote a tweet of support for Pennanen's actions, calling her brave.

"The brave Aino Pennanen tried to thwart a person's forcible deportation. Raising the issue of human rights cannot depend on a single person's civil courage," he wrote.

Jan Lindström of the eastern Uusimaa police department said that he cannot recall a similar situation in which a person refused to leave an aircraft.

National airline Finnair and police confirmed the incident took place.

Mari Kanerva, from the airline's communications department said the plane was headed to Berlin, Germany.

"Due to disruptive behaviour, one person needed to be removed from the plane. It was the decision of authorities and we cannot comment more than this," Kanerva said.

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