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The Finns Party’s Juha Mäenpää had the floor in the Finnish Parliament on 17 June 2020. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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THE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW Committee of the Finnish Parliament has expressed its backing for indicting Juha Mäenpää (PS), a first-term lawmaker from Vaasa.

Members of the Constitutional Law Committee on Wednesday voted 12 for and 5 against indicting the 48-year-old lawmaker, representing a rare departure from the committee’s usual consensus-oriented approach.

An objection demanding that no parliamentary consent be given for the indictment was attached to the ruling.

Mäenpää on 12 June 2019 employed the term ‘invasive alien species’ in discussing asylum seekers and their religious convictions in the Parliament House. Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen subsequently asked Members of the Parliament to give their consent for charging him with ethnic agitation, a request made necessary by the fact that representatives are afforded parliamentary immunity for statements made in the Parliament.

The Constitutional Law Committee on Wednesday stressed that its decision should not be interpreted as a comment on the culpability of Mäenpää. The Parliament, it reminded, is not responsible for determining whether or not the act specified in the indictment request constitutes a crime by the lawmaker.

“The serious nature of the act and the need to combat hate speech are highlighted in various international obligations and the extensive case law on hate speech of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR),” it said.

“In its most serious forms, hate speech has been deemed to nullify the underlying values of a democratic society.”

It also recognised the importance of political freedom of speech and its extent in the case of legislators but reminded that there are grounds for limiting the freedom based on both its previous interpretations and the case law of the ECHR.

“Parliamentary immunity has not been intended to extend to the protection of criminal activity. The Constitutional Law Committee views that the constitutionally protected immunity and freedom of speech of representatives have not been intended for use to infringe on equality or human dignity during parliamentary work,” its release reads.

The Finnish Parliament has been presented with a similar request to prosecute only three times in the history of Finnish independence: in 1932, 1947 and 1979. Not once has the request been granted.

The case will be presented to a court of law only if the indictment is backed by five-sixths of the votes cast in the Finnish Parliament. Jussi Halla-aho, the chairperson of the Finns Party, told Uusi Suomi earlier that he intends to thwart the indictment process.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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