Halla-aho accuses police of ‘political attack’ investigation

Helsinki Police say they don't have any political agenda behind their investigations into three politicians from three different parties.

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File picture showing detail on police uniform / Credit: News Now Finland

Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho has accused Helsinki Police of carrying out a political attack as they investigate one of his MPs.

This week it emerged that Detective Chief Inspector Pekka Hätönen, who is heading up an ongoing investigation into three Members of Parliament from three different political parties, has himself been a member of the Greens.

Hätönen is in charge of the hate crimes division at Helsinki Police, and stood for election in the 2017 municipal elections as a Green candidate in Espoo. However, he is no longer a member of the party.

Helsinki’s Chief of Police says they’ve looking into the situation, and decided that Hätönen will remain in charge of the investigation into the MPs – noting that he makes decisions in consultation with his chain of command.

This has angered Halla-aho, who wrote on Facebook that “one fanatical party controls a special police unit used to persecute political opponents.”

Senior officers have hit back at this characterisation.

“Finnish police take our work very seriously and we never have a political agenda behind our decision” says Heikki Kopperoinen, Deputy Chief of Helsinki Police.

“We have to do our work as well as we can every day. If some politician or party has their opinion, then they have their opinion. But we never have political motivations” Kopperoinen tells News Now Finland.

In 2017 Iltalehti newspaper carried out a poll asking police officers which political party they support.

The survey found the National Coalition Party had the most support with 26% and next was the Finns Party at 24%. The Greens were supported by just 3% of police officers. The questionnaire was conducted in cooperation with the Finnish Police Federation SPJL, and received 1072 responses (or around 15% of the total SPJL membership at that time).

File picture showing exterior of parliament with flowers, spring 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Why are the MPs being investigated? 

Former Interior Minister and ex-leader of the Christian Democrats Päivi Räsänen; Social Democrat MP Hussein Al-Taee; and Finns Party MP Juha Mäenpää are being investigated over controversial comments they’ve made.

Räsänen made critical remarks about Pride parade and the Evangelical Lutheran Church; Al-Taee wrote disparaging posts on social media about minorities back in 2011 and 2012; while Mäenpää used a speech in parliament in June to equate immigrants to an invasive species.

In Finland it can be considered a crime to make insults or threats about a about a group of people based on their ethnic origin, sexual orientation, skin colour, disability or religion.

However, MPs speeches on the floor of parliament are broadly protected and it would take a five-sixth majority of parliament members to vote to proceed with criminal action against Mäenpää, and Hala-aho says the 39 Finns Party MPs would block any attempts to bring charges.