A local politician from the nationalist Finns Party has been fined for inciting violence against the Finnish Red Cross (FRC), which runs many of the country's reception centres for asylum seekers.
On Tuesday, South Savo District Court convicted Ano Turtiainen of public incitement. The court ordered him to pay 50 day-fines, based on his income. He told Yle he did not plan to appeal the sentence, as he thought it would be unlikely to change the outcome.
Turtiainen is the Finns Party chair and a town councillor in the south-eastern Finnish municipality of Juva, where he is also an entrepreneur and competitive weightlifter, according to local paper Itä-Savo.
Turtiainen is seeking a place on the Finns Party ticket for next spring's parliamentary elections.
The court found that Turtiainen had encouraged violence against the FRC in a Facebook post after sharing a blog post about an information session on reception centres arranged by the FRC and the city of Tampere.
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In a comment, Turtiainen thanked those "who have taken risks while carrying out elimination tasks in destroying existing and planned reception centres."
He also asked whether "it is now time to expand operations to the enemies' main locations, from which its activities are directed. This post that I'm sharing makes clear the identity of our worst enemy (the FRC)."
"Political hue and cry"
Turtiainen denied breaking any laws. In court, he said that he simply wanted to spark a reasonable discussion by sharing the blog post.
In a comment to Yle later, he said that the ruling "did not come as a surprise because of the kind of political hue and cry that's been going on". He said he has been led to believe that local authorities would let the matter slide, but that the FRC had filed a lawsuit when he began campaigning to become a parliamentary candidate.
Turtiainen has been nominated by the South Savo Finns Party as a candidate in the April 2019 general election. The final candidate rosters will be chosen by the south-east Finland regional organisation and approved by the party headquarters in Helsinki.
The populist Finns Party was founded in 1995 by Timo Soini. Last year, it split in two, with Soini – now foreign minister – and others remaining in government under the name Blue Reform.
Over the years, a number of Finns Party politicians, including current chair Jussi Halla-aho, have been convicted of hate speech and similar crimes.