Helsinki police announced Tuesday that it had launched an investigation into election advertising used by the nationalist political party Finnish Nation First (Suomen Kansa Ensin) in downtown Helsinki.
The suspicions centre on political adverts posted at the busy Narinkkatori plaza in front of the Kamppi shopping centre in the heart of the city. According to police, a campaign event hosted by the party displayed ads bearing text that police believe bear the hallmarks of a criminal offence.
Investigators described the campaign material as hateful and targeting immigrants and sexual minorities in a discriminatory fashion. Police said they are considering the potential offence of ethnic agitation.
The investigation was said to be focusing on two of the party’s election candidates, one of whom is party chair Marco de Wit.
Police: Difference between campaign material and online posts
Lead investigator detective chief inspector Pekka Hätönen said that police are reviewing the material to determine whether or not it complies with the freedom of speech guaranteed during an election. However he said he suspects that it may have crossed the line.
Hätönen said that it is difficult to determine at this stage what kind of penalty would result if a prosecutor deemed that a crime had been committed. Similar offences committed online typically mean a 20-to-50-day fine, but in some cases, offenders have received suspended prison sentences, he noted.
"However this occurred in a public place during a campaign event, so the situation is a little different from online," he remarked.
The party has its roots in the "Finland first" (Suomi ensin) grassroots movement that set up an anti-immigration protest camp in the city centre in 2017. It advocates measures such as political independence by way of a "Fixit" or departure from the European Union, economic independence by reverting to the Finnish mark instead of the euro and closing the border to illegal immigration.
Police eventually shut down the group's protest camp, citing security concerns.