Monday. 04.03.2024

Lawmakers block prosecution of MP who called refugees 'invasive species'

Parliament on Friday refused to lift Juha Mäenpää's immunity in a vote in which 54 MPs rejected the proposal and 24 others did not even show up. Among them were politicians from all groups.

Juha Mäenpää, in military clothing, at the entrance to Parliament. Photo: Facebook.

Firefighters do not step on each other's hoses. And members of the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) also do not allow one of them to be brought to Justice, even when the Prosecutor General says there is evidence to file charges for hate speech.

Juha Maenpää, a controversial MP from the True Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset) group will avoid prosecution for inciting ethnic hatred. Parliament refused on Friday to lift his immunity after the number of votes in favor of stripping him of this protection fell short.

The incident that triggered the vote occurred one year ago, when Mäenpää compared asylum seekers with an invasive species in a speech in the Parliament. His words caused that 4 complaints were filed with police, which launched a preliminary investigation.

In January, Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen announced that charges would be filed against Mäenpää for inciting hatred against an ethnic group. But before she could do it, Parliament had to revoke his immunity.

The reason is that the Finnish law -as it happens in other European countries- especially protects the freedom of expression of MPs. According to the Constitution, their opinions cannot be limited nor can they be prosecuted for in the exercise of their office. Only the parliament itself can deprive them of that immunity.

To achieve this, the proposal must be endorsed by at least five sixths of parliament (meaning 167 of 200 MPs).

In this concrete case, success was hard to achieve since the True Finns have 38 members and -counting on their negative vote- the potential support was 162.

However, the result was even more favourable for Mäenpää: only 121 lawmakers supported the proposal. There were 54 votes against and other 24 legislators did even not show up.

Who voted against

Perussuomalaiset leader Jussi Halla-Aho had warned that his group would vote against the lifting of immunity. However, during the vote the True Finns' position was supported also by MPs from other parties.

In the end the proposal was rejected by 37 members of Perussuomalaiset, 4 MPs of the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), 6 of the Center Party (Keskusta) as well as 7 members of other minority groups.

Among those who did not attend the vote were 13 MPs from Kokomuus, 3 from Keskusta, 3 from the Green League (Vihreät), 2 from the Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto), one from the Party of the Swedish Finns (RKP), 1 from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and 1 of Perussuomalaiset.

Education Minister Li Andersson expressed on Twitter her disagreement with the result of the vote and described what happened as "a sad day in Parliament".


Lawmakers block prosecution of MP who called refugees 'invasive species'