Police officers carried a protester off the road in downtown Helsinki on 3 October 2020. (Handout / Jussi Lahti – Extinction Rebellion Finland)

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MANY POLICE OFFICERS are suspected of assault and violation of official duty over their actions in breaking up a protest held in Helsinki in October by Extinction Rebellion Finland (Elokapina).

The Office of the Prosecutor General has opened a preliminary inquiry into the actions of officers who ultimately resorted to pepper spray to stop the protesters from obstructing traffic.

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The officers were initially suspected only of violation of official duty, but the preliminary inquiry has since been expanded to also include assault, Iltalehti revealed on Tuesday, 8 December. All but one of the 15 victims, as well as one bystander, have filed a report of an offence regarding the measures taken by police.

“In the preliminary inquiry, we are reviewing the actions of police and the reports of offence filed by the complainants. The details brought to our attention have made it clear that it is necessary to look into the issue also in regards to the offence of assault,” Heidi Savurinne, the prosecutor in charge of police-related matters at the Office of the Prosecutor General, said to YLE.

“It is in the interests of the judicial protection of both parties.”

Savurinne declined to specify how many officers are suspected of wrongdoing, citing operational reasons, and reminded that evaluating police actions in the context of a demonstration is challenging.

“We are looking into the use of force by police and generally the actions of police in conjunction with this demonstration. We are looking into whether [the use of pepper spray] was the most lenient measure available to the police and whether the use of force complies with the criteria laid down in the police act and the police’s own regulations,” she said.

“We are still interviewing the suspects, so I am not in a position to comment on the accounts.”

The preliminary inquiry is expected to be completed next year.

The National Police Board has previously stated that the officers acted according to regulations.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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