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Monday's papers: Islamic legality, mid-term review background, intelligence service bill

The week starts off with print news on a troubled association and its legal interpretations, a few questions on today's governmental mid-term review and a new bill proposal that would call on the Finnish Security Intelligence Service to communicate more with other law enforcement.

Koraanin selitysteos.
An Islamic association's legal standing, the government's tenuous future plans and Supo are all in headlines this Monday. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat runs a piece on an indebted Muslim association with its own board for Islamic legal issues. The Ministry of Education and Culture supported the Finnish Islamic Council in 2007-2014 with more than 450,000 euros in funding, before the group's financial problems spiralled out of control.

IS writes that according to annual reports filed by the association, its own legal branch's task was to elect a jury to handle marriage-related cases and "other issues relating to Islamic law".

"The board made decisions and statements on individual divorce cases, and drew up recommendations for Muslims living in Finland," the paper quotes the association's own paperwork.

Senior secretary Joni Hiitola from the Ministry comments on the legality of the quasi-legal interpretations of the Islamic board, saying that he understands its decisions were acts of mediation rather than legal judgment.

"The interpretations of a board like this has no legal standing in Finland, that much is a given," Hiitola says.

The chair of the association – whose goal it is to serve a cooperative and discursive purpose among Finland's Islamic communities – was also found guilty of assaulting a minor in 2011. The man was found to have physically abused his children, IS writes.

Halfway through

Top daily Helsingin Sanomat tackles some preliminary questions relating to the biggest political event of the week, namely the government's mid-term review, a two-day round of talks assessing the government's actions so far and its plans for the future.

The biggest issues surround employment, as Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's coalition has vowed to raise Finnish employment to 72 percent by 2019 – a projection seen as unlikely by the Ministry of Finance.

Other expected decisions to be made, outlined by HS, include increasing the number of ministers in government by three people, owing partly to Finns Party MP and Minister of Justice and Employment, Jari Lindström's hefty workload. And after cutting millions from higher education and research, the government is in for a tough debate when it comes to funding vital innovations; the coalition parties are torn on the right use for any money left over – companies and entrepreneurs, or research and study?

Domestic security, for its part, will likely be discussed in light of extra funding for and increased cooperation between the authorities – namely the police, the Defence Forces, the Border Guard and the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo).

Co-op bill to change protocol

Speaking of which, a working group is writing up a law proposal that would assign new cooperative mandates to Supo itself, which would be more forcibly profiled as an intelligence agency rather than a law enforcement unit.

Tampere region paper Aamulehti reports that Supo may in future have to divulge sensitive information to other authorities such as the police, even if it would jeopardise an intelligence operation. Supo agents would be obliged to call the national emergency services at 112 in the event of a serious crime that could be prevented; the call would have to be made immediately, without special deliberation as to their own Supo powers.

Interior Ministry expert Heli Heikkola says in AL that a Supo worker calling 112 could state their credentials, and revealing information related to clandestine intelligence gathering would be decided on a case by case basis.

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