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Tuesday's papers: Turku suspect details, intelligence law pressure, journalist threats and measles epidemic

The Turku knife attack continues to dominate the newspapers in Finland, with stories on Tuesday about the suspect's background and behaviour, moves to hasten the passing of a new intelligence law and a journalist subject to threats and abuse after covering the attacks. There is also a look at the chances of measles spreading across a wide area in Finland.

Muistokynttilöitä ja kukkia Turun kauppatorilla sunnuntaina iltapäivällä 20. elokuuta.
Muistokynttilöitä ja kukkia Turun kauppatorilla sunnuntaina iltapäivällä 20. elokuuta. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Inevitably the media is still focused on last Friday's events in Turku, in which an 18-year-old man is suspected of stabbing several people, killing two of them. Yesterday Yle reported that Supo had been tipped off about the man earlier this year, that he was appealing a negative asylum decision, and that he along with four Moroccan men are due to face remand hearings on Tuesday.

On Tuesday Helsingin Sanomat leads with details about the main suspect Abderrahman Mechkah's background. He is known to have been in Germany in early 2015, where police took his fingerprints after taking him in on suspicion of immigration offences. The German interior ministry refused to offer more information on his time in the country.

Ilta-Sanomat, though, reports that Mechkah was supected of assault in the southern town of Neuss, citing a report in Suddeutsche Zeitung.

He arrived in Finland in 2016, reports HS, making an asylum claim and living at a reception centre in Turku.

HS visits the mosque where Mechkah apparently prayed before his rampage on Friday, interviewing worshippers about their impression of him. He did not appear particularly religious, says one, and tried to hide a tattoo on his left wrist as more devout Muslims usually shun them.

One member of the mosque told HS that he'd lived in Finland for more than 30 years and now 'one idiot criminal' had tarnished the whole community.

Intelligence law

One key issue for politicians in the coming weeks will be a long-proposed intelligence law reform, which was mentioned by President Sauli Niinistö in his remarks on the Turku attack and has been proposed by three different governments.

HS reports on Tuesday that the SDP's stance could be decisive on the law's fate, as they can either support or prevent its rapid progress through parliament. Expedited legislation requires a four-fifths majority in parliament, meaning 166 MPs. There are 35 social democrats in parliament, meaning they could--if they want--block the quickened legislative process.

They have been critical of the proposal so far, observing that it gives wide-ranging powers to the security services and that constitutional protections of individual privacy should be respected. That stands in contrast to the views of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, who said on Monday that the right to life is more important than the right to privacy.

HS strongly criticised that stance, calling it 'opportunistic' and emphasising that all rights are equally important.

The paper reports SDP leader Antti Rinne as saying that his party will evaluate the proposal in its entirety when it is ready, and then decide whether or not to support a fast track process.

Abuse for journalist

Most of the papers cover the abuse and threats suffered by Turun Sanomat's Rebekka Härkönen, who reported over the weekend the story of an Afghan man who helped victims of the terror attack. That drew some criticism on social media from readers unhappy about the number of stories on the foreign-background people who helped in the wake of the attack.

Fake news website MV-lehti published a story alleging that Härkönen had fabricated the tale of a hero Afghan, claiming she had ignored the actions of white Finns attending to the victim. Härkönen says that on the contrary, her paper had tracked down others who had helped but they had declined to be interviewed.

The MV-lehti story was given a signal boost by anti-immigration Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho, who shared it on Facebook, and Härkönen was deluged with abusive and threatening messages. Police subsequently told her that they will investigate the hateful communications whether or not she makes a formal complaaint.

Halla-aho later deleted his Facebook post sharing the MV-lehti article.

Measles outbreak

In non-terror-related news, HS reports on a measles outbreak in Savo this year in which an Italian man infected five people. The incident was investigated by the Eurosurveillance journal on epidemic control, and their report forms the bulk of the HS story.

Researchers estimate that some 2,000 people were exposed to the risk of measles, as the man travelled on packed trains and a ferry to Tallinn, as well as a plane back to Italy while probably infectious. He had told doctors at Savonlinna hospital that he had received both measles vaccines, and was permitted to leave before measles was confirmed as the infection.

Finland had not seen a measles case among the local population since 1998, because almost every child is vaccinated against the disease. Now, thanks to anti-vaccination ideas, one in three health centres has a vaccination rate below 95 percent. If one of those areas sees a measles outbreak, there could be many infections, reports HS.

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