Court Dismisses Incitement Charges Against Independence Day Swastika Flag Wavers

On Monday, the Helsinki District Court dismissed the charges of five men suspected of inciting participation in an ethnic group in the presentation of swastika tickets at the Independence Day demonstration in 2018.

Five defendants participated in the neo-Nazi Towards Freedom (Towards Freedom) demonstration in Helsinki on December 6, 2018.

According to the indictment, three defendants carried swastika tickets during the demonstration, while a fourth man organized the march and the Fifth Defendant participated in the procession and helped carry the flags.

In its ruling, the court acknowledged that the flags were specifically related to Nazi-German ideologies and acts in the 1940s, which included the persecution and genocide of millions of Jews, including atrocities.

The story continues after the picture.

The protesters marched through Helsinki on December 6, 2018.Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

However, the court also stated in its decision that the mere display of a swastika flag does not constitute incitement to an ethnic group, as such a crime would constitute a threat, slander or insult to a group of people, such as race or religion.

"It was not proven [in the case] that a swastika flag would send a threatening and offensive message in connection with anti-immigration measures," the court said in its decision.

The court also dismissed charges of interference by the authorities. According to the prosecutor, four defendants tried to prevent police from seizing tickets. According to the court, the police had no legal grounds to interfere with the freedom of assembly of the members of the procession.

However, one of the men who took part in the Independence Day demonstration was fined for inciting an ethnic group when he was found guilty of threatening to give a speech outside of school. The woman who recorded the speech and streamed it online also received fines.

Not all court decisions were final, as cases can still be taken to the Court of Appeal.

According to the indictment, the five defendants were members of the Finnish Chapter of the Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL), which was banned by the Pirkanmaa District Court in November 2017. The group was later banned by the Supreme Court in 2019.

Defendants denied representing the group in participating in the march.

The story continues after the picture.

Raija Toiviainen, Prosecutor General
State Prosecutor Raija Toiviainen.Yle

Showing a flag with a swastika is not against Finnish law. But the state prosecutor Raija Toiviainen said it was a well-known symbol of Adolf Hitler from Nazi Germany.

Prior to Monday’s verdict, Toiviainen said the use of tickets in the Independence Day demonstration sent a clear racist and offensive message that threatened groups of people that participants considered inferior.

After the verdict, Toiviainen said he intended to appeal the district court’s decision.

"I thought this would have been a clearer thing, but I can now see that this requires reflection. I think the charges were well-founded and I have to take the time to look at the court’s decision," he said.

Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Helsinki Kimmo Nuotio said he was surprised by the district court’s decision and added that he thought it would be good for the matter to be investigated in a higher court.

"The district court, on the one hand, emphasized the importance of freedom of expression and, on the other, has the right to express its views," The campfire said.

Some European countries, including Germany, have banned the display of swastikas due to the atrocities associated with the symbol. However, the Finnish Air Force used the form of the controversial symbol until 2016.

Nuotio said that it is possible that Finland will also discuss the possibility of banning the display of swastikas.

Yle News published an article on the complex history of the swastika in Finland in 2017.

Source: The Nordic Page





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