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Ousted Orthodox priest wins wrongful dismissal case

Helsinki District Court found that the city's Orthodox Church had insufficient grounds for firing Mitro Repo.

Mitro Repo Helsingin käräjäoikeudessa.
File photo of Mitro Repo, 5 March, 2018. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

The Orthodox Church in Helsinki dismissed one of its priests, Mitro Repo in July 2016, citing inappropriate behaviour and other problems at the workplace. Repo fought his dismissal, eventually taking the case to court.

According to his former employer, Repo had made "sexually charged suggestions" on numerous occasions.

Repo and the parish have not had a peaceful history. Eight years prior to his dismissal, in August 2008, Helsinki vicar Markku Salminen told Yle Uutiset that the parish no longer trusted Repo.

At the time of his dismissal media reports were published concerning Repo's problematic behaviour and interactions with women over decades. Among other newspapers, Ilta-Sanomat reported several women's recollections of conversations where he made lewd remarks or behaved inappropriately.

Ruling: Inadequate reasons for firing

On Thursday Helsinki District Court said that Repo simultaneously won and lost his case.

The court said it did not consider Repo's actions were of a severity that warranted his dismissal. The court ordered that the parish compensate Repo for four months salary and some 15,000 euros in his court expenses, for a total of around 30,000 euros.

Repo said he considers his dismissal as extremely unwarranted and wants the church to pay him compensation of two years' salary, or around 90,000 euros.

Repo said that he will examine the district court ruling and comment on the case later.

Over the years — and following an appearance on Yle's news comedy programme Uutisvuoto — Repo has become somewhat of a media celebrity in Finland. He was elected to the European Parliament in 2009, running on the Social Democrats' list as an independent candidate. Repo was not re-elected in 2014, however.

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