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Police mull criminal investigation into divisive remarks from 3 MPs

Comments made by parliamentarians Päivi Räsänen, Hussein Al-Taee, and Juha Mäenpää could be considered ethnic agitation.

Päivi Räsänen, Hussein Al-Taee ja Juha Mäenpää.
Päivi Räsänen, Hussein al-Taee and Juha Mäenpää Image: Kimmo Brandt / Compic / Eduskunta

Finnish police are currently examining inflammatory comments from three members of parliament, after requests to investigate the legality of the public remarks were submitted to the authorities. The newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (HS) reports that preliminary stances on the matter are expected from the police and prosecutors in the coming week.

The first investigation request concerns Facebook posts from first-term Social Democrat MP Hussein Al-Taee, who admitted several weeks ago to writing text that was disparaging of minorities in 2011-2012.

Inspector Pekka Hätönen from the Helsinki Police now told the paper that Al-Taee's dated comments may still be made subject to a criminal investigation. The National Bureau of Investigation had earlier stated that the police would not begin an investigation into the fledgling MP's old posts, but the Helsinki Police have since reconsidered the statutes of limitation with regards to the case.

Ethnic agitation is a crime in Finland. The law defines it as a person who makes available to the public an expression of opinion or another message where a certain group is threatened, defamed or insulted on the basis of its race, skin colour, birth status, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability.

The maximum time within which legal proceedings may be initiated for suspected crimes of this nature is five years after the event.

HS reports that the authorities are now reconsidering an investigation request because it could be construed that a suspected ethnic agitation crime could conceivably continue for as long as the posts are on display.

Al-Taee has publicly apologized for his remarks.

Comments on Pride, immigrants as alien species

The second investigation request being considered by the police concerns tweets from former interior minister and current Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen on Helsinki Pride 2019.

Räsänen criticized the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland's decision to defend the rights of sexual minorities by signing on as an official partner in the event.

Räsänen tweeted that she found it regrettable that "sin and shame" had been elevated as a source of pride. She included a still photo of New Testament verses which speak of "vile affections", among other things

On 4 August, Räsänen posted on Twitter that she had not been told about any investigation requests, and heard about it for the first time in the media. She also said that "she has faith that it is still allowed to quote the Bible" in Finland.

The third request for police investigation centres on a statement from Finns Party MP Juha Mäenpää, who gave a speech on the floor of the Parliament in mid-June in which he equated immigrants with alien or invasive species.

Freedom of expression in the Finnish Parliament is exceptionally broad. Even so, HS writes that things would get complicated if Mäenpää's remarks are found to meet the criteria of suspected ethnic agitation by the police and prosecutors.

If the authorities reach this conclusion, the paper writes, the case would proceed to the body's constitutional law committee.

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