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Two remanded into custody over attack on Finns Party aide

Both of the men remanded on suspicion of attempted murder were said to have links to far-right groups.

Perussuomalaisten Keski-Suomen vaalipäällikkö Pekka Kataja Jämsän torilla 15. elokuuta 2020.
Pekka Kataja at the Jämsä market square in August. Image: Hannu Rainamo / Lehtikuva

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said on Friday that it had remanded two men into custody in connection with an attack on Finns Party aide Pekka Kataja in mid-July.

Yle identified one of the men as Jyväskylä city councillor and city board member Teemu Torssonen, who had been expelled from the Finns Party last May.

Police said in a statement that the Central Finland District Court remanded a 44-year-old man into custody on Friday on suspicion of attempted murder.

Yle reported that according to its information the man belonged to the leadership of the far right group Soldiers of Odin and was also connected to the banned neo Nazi group Nordic Resistance Resistance Movement.

Investigators said that the Central Finland court had also previously remanded a 39-year-old man into pre-trial custody on suspicion of attempted murder. The second suspect is also said to have links to the far right.

"The preliminary investigation is still ongoing and will continue after the remand [hearings] by way of questioning and technical examinations. Police are determining a motive for the suspected crime and cannot comment on it while questioning continues," NBI lead investigator detective chief inspector Jussi Luoto said in the statement.

Suspects had prior convictions

The 44-year-old suspect had a previous conviction for possession of a dangerous weapon. A spring baton was found in his possession in October 2017 in Jyväskylä.

Kataja reportedly prevented the younger suspect, Torssonen, from running as a Finns Party candidate in last year’s parliamentary election. The decision to block his candidacy was made by the party’s Central Finland chapter.

He was later expelled from the party. He had previously been convicted for firearms possession offences. He was found to have stored a large amount of ammunition for pistols, shotguns and rifles in an unlocked closet.

Yle sources said that the men had been considered by police to be persons of interest since the early phases of the investigation.

Luoto said that the suspects had spoken with police during questioning and that their questioning will continue. However he said that he could not divulge the nature of their comments.

He added that the incident was being investigated as suspected murder because of the brutal nature of the attack and noted that it is possible that other individuals may have been involved.

Speculation over perpetrators

A long-time activist for the nationalist party and parliamentary aide to MP Jouni Kotiaho, Kataja reportedly suffered a cracked skull, mild cerebral haemmorrhaging and three broken ribs during the attack at his home in Jämsä, Central Finland.

Kataja initially said that the perpetrators appeared to be "Arab-looking" but later walked back those claims and said he regretted his choice of words. He went on to surmise that the far right could be behind the attack.

Finns Party chair Jussi-Halla-aho and party secretary Simo Grönroos had initially speculated that the attack was politically-motivated.

However Halla-aho later said that those comments were based on Kataja’s account and added that he did not know what a possible motive could be.

The deadline for filing charges in the case is 1 December.

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