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Iraqi asylum seeker fake death trial begins

A woman and her ex-husband both face aggravated fraud and forgery charges, but the defendants blame each other.

Syytetty ja oikeusavustajat Helsingin käräjäoikeudessa.
The defendant and her attorney at Helsinki District Court on Monday. Image: Pekka Tynell / Yle

A criminal trial of the daughter of an Iraqi man who faked his own death in Iraq after being deported began at Helsinki District Court on Monday.

The woman as well as her ex-husband faced charges of aggravated fraud and aggravated forgery in court.

State prosecutor Sampsa Hakala said authorities have made contact with the man whose death was faked in Iraq, after Finland requested assistance from the Middle Eastern country.

"He has not been killed and is not dead," Hakala said.

The man's daughter and her former husband have both been charged with aggravated fraud and aggravated forgery.

According to Hakala, the pair misled officials and the European Court of Human Rights into believing the deported man had been killed in Iraq in December 2017 after Finland denied his application for asylum. The prosecutor said that the defendants used falsified documents in order to convince authorities about the story.

As a result of the fabrication, for the first time in its history, Finland was found in violation of Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights in 2019.

Ex-husband told police about scheme

Shortly after the human rights court handed down that verdict, Finnish police received information from Iraqi authorities that the deportee was possibly still alive, sparking a preliminary probe by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Hakala explained to the court.

"At the same time, the man's former son-in-law explained what took place from his perspective. In February 2020 he went to the [Helsinki] police station in Pasila and announced that Finland had been deceived," Hakola said during his testimony on Monday.

The police's preliminary investigation report states that as of May 2020 the deported Iraqi was no longer in touch with his daughter. The father was subsequently informed that she had been detained, but he has maintained that the criminal allegations were related to her ex-husband seeking revenge.

Finnish authorities still believe that the deportee was involved in the criminal scheme, but he is not part of the ongoing trial because he is not in Finland.

However during police questioning, the man claimed that he was unaware about the fraud and did not know the details regarding how the forged documents were obtained to verify his death.

Father claims innocence

"I do not know whose initiative it was to stage my death," the man told investigators.

"If my daughter has done this, her husband probably threatened to kill her, take the children away from her and blackmail her," he said, according to interrogation records.

The man's daughter was in the process of divorcing her husband, she told investigators that he had put limitations on her life and physically abused her.

During Monday's court proceedings, the daughter and her ex blamed each other for the crimes. But the daughter did, to a degree, admit having committed them.

Her defence lawyer did not agree that the fraud and forgery charges were aggravated. The woman has denied carrying out the crimes for financial reasons, explaining that she only wanted to ensure that she could remain in Finland. Furthermore, her attorney claimed that it was instead her father and ex-husband who orchestrated the scheme.

Meanwhile, the woman's ex-husband has denied all wrongdoing, claiming that he was unaware that the documents presented to authorities had been forged and that he had only heard that his former father-in-law was still alive in February 2020.

The maximum penalty for a first-time offender of aggravated fraud is a four-year prison sentence. The same sentence applies to a first-time aggravated forgery conviction.

The trial was scheduled to begin in November but was delayed due to an illness.

Edited on 11.1.2020 to clarify the name of the European Court of Human Rights and its ruling.

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