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Finns Party MP suspected of ethnic agitation

Police are investigating Finns Party MP Juho Eerola for suspected ethnic agitation over a Facebook post in which he claims to have spat at Roma beggars. Eerola has denied committing any offences.

Juho Eerola
Juho Eerola Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Police Detective Jouni Niskanen confirmed that an investigation has been launched into Finns Party MP Juho Eerola for suspected ethnic agitation. 

Eerola told the Finnish news agency STT that police had questioned him about a Facebook post about Romanian beggars. Eerola also disclosed that he had been questioned on his Facebook profile.

In the post under investigation, Eerola said that he had spat at a Roma panhandler, and he also described Romanian Roma as criminals.

Niskanen pointed out that ethnic agitation is a rare offence in Finland and that the courts have handled few cases.

"It examines the limits of free speech, and that’s not simple. The threshold for a preliminary investigation is also lower than the threshold for a charge, let alone a conviction. It is merely a suspicion," Niskanen added.

Eerola has denied committing any offence.

Finns Party chair: Action unwarranted

Meanwhile Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho said that ethnic agitation is such a vague offence that it can be used as a political weapon.

"It is unfortunate that we have this kind of offence that is so unclearly defined, and which neither people nor the judicial system have any clarity on what meets the characteristics of the crime," Halla-aho said Friday.

"It makes it possible to use this kind of suspected criminal offence and a criminal report as a political weapon," the anti-immigration hardliner added.

"When an offence is very poorly-defined, people are ignorant about what constitutes the hallmarks of the crime in question. This encourages [people] to file criminal reports about politically unpopular persons," Halla-aho concluded.

The party chair said that he had only briefly discussed the matter with Eerola. He added that he saw no reason for action based on suspicion of an offence being committed.

"Ths suspicion of crime is not by any means the same as a charge and certainly not the same as a conviction, so I don't see why there was any need to react to this."

In 2012, Finland's Supreme Court ordered Halla-aho to pay a fine for anti-Islam blog posts dating back to 2008. The Supreme Court found that Halla-aho’s posts, which likened Islam to pedophilia and said Somalis are predisposed to stealing and living off welfare, qualified as inciting hatred against an ethnic group. In its ruling, the judiciary said hate speech does not fall under the protection afforded by the freedom of speech.

Edit: The e story was updated at 5.45pm to include comments from Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho.

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