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Soini denies Finns party racism on HARDtalk

Defence Minister Carl Haglund has lashed out at Finns party leader Timo Soini for allegedly glossing over racism within the nationalistic party in an interview with BBC's HARDtalk earlier this week.

Timo Soini
Timo Soini Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Soini said the Swedish People's Party chair was just jealous for not being invited on the show himself.

"I don't hate anybody. Nobody is hated by the Finns Party. Of course there are one or two outbursts but we have 19 percent of people voting for us," Soini told HARDtalk host Stephen Sackur.

The programme, known for its tough interview style, pressed Soini on his handling of xenophobic remarks made by MPs inside his party.

Incidents have included a Finns party parliamentary aide suggesting that members of minority groups be obliged to wear Nazi-style identification armbands, MP Teuvo Hakkarainen's use of the N-word and MP Jussi Halla-aho's blog posts on Islam that led the courts to find him guilty of ethnic agitation and breaching the sanctity of religion.

Soini defended Hakkarainen by saying that the MP has not admitted to being a racist and said Halla-aho had been punished enough by constant negative publicity over the past five years.

"So if you use that kind of inflammatory language and then deny you're a racist, that's ok?” Sackur asked.

"That's not ok, you should be improving in your behaviour," Soini replied.

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