Sebastian Lämsä (right) and his defence counsel, Heikki Aspegren, attended a detention hearing via video link at the District Court of Oulu on Monday, 17 June 2024. Aspegren said his client admits to stabbing a 12-year-old child in a shopping centre in Oulu on Thursday, but denies that the attack was racially motivated or that he intended to kill the victim. (Timo Heikkala – Str / Lehtikuva)

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THE DISTRICT COURT of Oulu on Monday detained Sebastian Lämsä, 33, for probable cause of two attempted murders over a stabbing that occurred in Valkea Shopping Centre in Oulu on Thursday, 13 June 2024.

Heikki Aspegren, the defence counsel of Lämsä, said his client admitted to the stabbing during the detention hearing but denied the claim that his intention was to kill the victim, reported YLE.

The defendant, he added, also denied the allegation that the stabbing had a racist motive.

The stabbing took place out of the blue at about 6.35pm on Thursday, with the defendant stabbing a 12-year-old child repeatedly from behind before running after a 14-year-old child fleeing the scene of the incident. Both victims are Finnish nationals of foreign background, according to YLE.

Oulu Police Department on Tuesday revealed that the 12-year-old victim has recovered to the extent that investigators have been able to interview them.

Lämsä has ties to the Nordic Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi organisation that was banned by the Supreme Court of Finland in 2020. He has been found guilty of pepper-spraying a left-wing politician in Oulu in 2012 and stabbing a person at the launch event of a book about the far right in a library in Jyväskylä, Central Finland, in 2013.

“He has stated also to interrogators that he dropped out of all that kinds of activity in February 2018,” Aspegren said on Monday.

Li Andersson, the chairperson of the Left Alliance, on Monday called on the government to shed light on its assessment of the threat posed by the far right. The Left Alliance, she reminded, made a similar demand last year in the wake of reports about a number of foiled far-right plots in Finland.

“This shows that [the far right] is a threat. It’s really shocking that a child is targeted in an act of political violence,” she was quoted saying in Turku by YLE. “The minister of the interior should first be more clear about the kind of a threat the government believes the far right to be. I’d like to hear what kind of action the government is ready to take.”

Andersson on Friday reminded that the suspect was a core member of a since banned far-right group, the events of which were attended by several members of the Finns Party, including Members of the Finnish Parliament.

“The Finns Party can’t evade discussion about the far right in Finland if it purports to take Finland’s security seriously,” she wrote on X.

Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) on Friday described the stabbing as horrible and dismissed attempts to tie the incident to her party as unscrupulous. “We aren’t sweeping any kind of extremism under the rug,” she stressed to YLE.

Rantanen acknowledged that the far right and far-right violence are a risk to public safety, referring to risk assessments by the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo).

“The risk exists specifically in regards to acts by individuals and small groups. We’ve long known that we have extremist activists,” she said, reminding that the pre-trial incident into the stabbing remains ongoing.

Supo on Monday stated to YLE that the number of far-right activists on its list of counter-terrorism targets has increased in the past five years. Most of the roughly 350 individuals on the list, though, are radical Islamists.

“The number of targets varies constantly, and the number cited in any threat assessment reflects the situation at a particular point in time. It does provide an indication of the development at scale, however,” a spokesperson said to the public broadcasting company.

The profile – rather than the number – of counter-terrorism targets is more relevant for the threat assessments, according to Supo.

“Some of the targets are assessed to have both the ability and motivation to carry out a violent attack, and their number is more relevant than the total number on the list for the threat of terrorism,” the spokesperson explained.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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