Helsinki councillor Jussi Halla-aho attracts dozens of supporters to courthouse
Prosecutor demands suspended prison sentence on incitement charges
An unusually large crowd of fans had come to support the Helsinki councillor Jussi Halla-aho (True Finns/Independent) in court proceedings that began on the fourth floor of the Helsinki District courthouse yesterday - Tuesday. Most of the supporters were youngish adult men.
Halla-aho is being charged at the Helsinki District Court with violation of the freedom of worship and incitement to racial hatred.
The charges were sparked by Halla-aho’s Internet blog writings more than a year ago.
In his blog entry, Halla-aho made two statements that violated the law, the prosecutor said.
In one of the entries Halla-aho linked Islam to paedophilia, and in another he commented that spongeing off taxpayers could be one of the genetic features of the Somalis.
As many as 50 people would have liked to get into the courtroom to follow the hearing. Most of them were supporters of Halla-aho, while some were members of his family and others were representatives of the media. However, only 30 people could be seated in the courtroom.
According to the prosecutor, Halla-aho publicly insulted and disgraced things that the Islam communities regard as sacred.
Halla-aho’s remark concerning the Somalis was discriminatory and strongly generalised, insulting their human dignity, the prosecutor noted.
”This is bigotry-related xenophobic demagogy”, declared district prosecutor Simo Kolehmainen, who is to conduct the case, even though the charges against Halla-aho were initially pressed by Deputy Prosecutor General Jorma Kalske.
In the prosecutor’s opinion the court should consider passing a suspended prison sentence, if the defendant is found guilty as charged.
However, prison sentences are very rare in connection with crimes involving freedom of speech. In such cases the court normally imposes a pecuniary penalty following a guilty verdict.
Halla-aho pleaded not guilty, responding to the charges without a lawyer.
In Halla-aho’s view, the prosecutor had misinterpreted his Internet blog writings, taking extracts from the factual texts inappropriately.
The purpose of his writings was to discuss freedom of speech sarcastically, while commenting on the fact that the media and authorities treat people unequally, Halla-aho argued.
The remarks about Islam and Somalis were just illustrative examples, Halla-aho claimed.
The Helsinki District Court is to give its decision on the matter in two weeks.
Last autumn, the national women’s organisation of the Green League Party Vihreät Naiset (“Green Women”) filed a report of an offence against Jussi Halla-aho over his Internet blog writings, in which he talked about immigrants and rapes.
While investigating the matter, the police read Halla-aho’s blog a little more thoroughly, and eventually the actual charges were pressed as a result of another piece of writing.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Soini defends True Finns party against accusations of xenophobia (9.10.2008)
Great ideological disparity among True Finns in Helsinki region (28.10.2008)
Green women´s organisation considers filing criminal report against True Finns councillor Jussi Halla-aho (14.11.2008)
COMMENTARY: Halla-aho and some uncomfortable truths (9.12.2008)
What does Jussi Halla-aho really want? (2.12.2008)