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Helsinki police mull probe into neo-Nazi demonstration

The National Bureau of Investigation is also looking into whether a related group has violated a court-ordered ban.

kuvakaappaus kohtivapautta-sivustolta
A screenshot from the organisation's website shows a logo resembling a Nazi swastika. Image: kuvakaappaus kohtivapautta-sivustolta

Helsinki police department is considering launching an investigation into a demonstration that took place in the capital last Saturday. The criminal offence under consideration would be illegal congregation of a banned organisation.

A grassroots organisation calling itself "Toward freedom!" (KV or Kohti vapautta! in Finnish) was behind the protest that took place at midday at Narinkkatori in downtown Helsinki.

Members of the group handed out fliers and waved flags bearing symbols similar to Nazi swastikas. According to tabloid daily Iltalehti, police arrived on the scene but did not intervene in the event.

The demonstration was apparently timed to coincide with the date of the Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass. The 1938 pogrom by civilians and paramilitary troops against German Jews saw tens of thousands thrown into concentration camps and widespread destruction of Jewish property.

According to Helsinki resident Dmitry Gurbanov, anti-Semitic stickers also appeared in the city during the weekend.

"Last night Nazis (sic) were out in Helsinki on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht. Police did not intervene in their actions. Now PVL [banned neo-Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement] has announced that the stickers printed with ‘Jude’ were put up in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and also in Finland," Gurbanov tweeted.

He added that one of the stickers had been posted outside the Israeli embassy as well as a synagogue.

Story continues after images.

Toward freedom! describes itself as a national socialist movement but is widely considered a neo-Nazi group. It has organised several demonstrations across the country during the course of the year.

According to Tommi Kotonen, a Jyväskylä University researcher, activists from the banned Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL) are likely behind the movement's activity.

He noted that PVL members have participated in KV’s operations and that the banned group has shared "activism reports" on its website. Additionally, before the courts ordered it proscribed, PVL also organised several protests using the slogan, "Toward freedom!"

Last autumn the Turku Appeal Court upheld a lower court decision to ban PVL, making it illegal for the group to mobilise, demonstrate and distribute propaganda. Meanwhile Finland’s Supreme Court has also issued an interim ban on the organisation, pending a final decision on its fate.

The National Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating whether or not the group has violated the temporary ban by continuing to operate under the Toward freedom! name.

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