Written by James Cohen
Jussi Halla-aho is a prominent Finnish writer and opponent of mass immigration. In the past he has been the subject of articles here, as well as the author of several guest-essays for Gates of Vienna.
Mr. Halla-aho was elected to the Helsinki City Council last year, and was almost immediately indicted for his "racist" writings. It was a blatant case of political persecution.
The trial began two days ago. A reader named LW volunteered to translate a post about the case from Mr. Halla-aho's website. First, here's the translator's explanatory note:
I thought you might be interested in some news from Finland. The notorious anti-multiculturalism activist and Helsinki city councilor Jussi Halla-aho, whose case you have covered before, went before Helsinki district court on August 25th, indicted for incitement against a national group and the disturbance of religious worship. The court will announce its decision on September 8th.
Our state broadcasting company YLE published a short article about this.
You already have the offending essay in your collection, but for your convenience here it is again.
Finally, I have (with the aid of some other people) translated Halla-aho's essay about the trial, which includes in full the statement he made in court. It is interesting reading. It's also interesting that Halla-aho declined to use an attorney in this case - he stated that the accusation is so patently ridiculous that he isn't going to waste his own money in it, and if, as he believes, it is politically motivated, no attorney would do him much good.
The original essay in Finnish with hyperlinks included can be found here.
And now LW's translation:
Today I stood trial in Helsinki district court. The prosecutor was Simo Kolehmainen and the judge was Jussi Sipola.
Johan BÃ¤ckman has written a quite good description of the proceedings, so I shall not go over that part myself. Everyone there wondered at the strong presence of Prosecutor General Mika Illman in the trial, even if he wasn't physically present. Most of the questions the prosecutor asked from me were in one way or another about what I meant by saying this or that about Illman:
S.K: Why did you, in your essay "A few baits for Mika Illman", comment on the punishment of Seppo Lehto, if you haven't read all the papers relating to the case? J.H: It is quite normal that people comment on things they are not experts on. S.K: What do you mean when you, at the end of essay, wish Mika Illman "a nice day"? J.H: I don't wish to use the f-word, but this style can be called provocation.
In practice, Kolehmainen acted as the barrister of the offended and provoked Illman. Formally Illman played no role in the process, but according to information I've received from police, he prodded them to examine everything I've written when it became clear that there was nothing in the crime report by Heli JÃ¤rvinen (of Green Women) that would have been enough for even starting judicial proceedings, let alone making an indictment.
Most of the time different sides spoke of different things. Kolehmainen attempted to prove that my sentences were offensive. I didn't dispute the offensiveness, but talked of my reasons for writing those sentences. According to Kolehmainen, my motive to offend was proved by amongst other things the fact that the sentences were bolded and I myself stated they were offensive. I asked of Kolehmainen that if he wished to present someone, would he include a statement "this is offensive"? Wouldn't that kind of water down the whole insult? I also mentioned that the Dictionary of Modern Finnish includes the words "negro" and "nigger", both bolded and referred to as offensive, and asked Kolehmainen if he thinks this proves that the dictionary uses the words "negro" and "nigger" with the intent to slander.
Kolehmainen presented the court with my essays "Comments about A-Talk show", "My apologies" and "Shortly about the charge" as additional evidence of my intent to offend. I found this a little amusing since - had I remembered - I would have presented the very same essays as evidence for the defense. Kolehmainen caused a general burst of laughter by stating that he doesn't think "My apologies" is a genuine apology.
It was also somewhat interesting that the proceedings were held in a tiny hall, even though considerable interest in the case was probably expected.
Media articles have been collected in the MediaWatch blog. Ilta-Sanomat has once again had little troubles in choosing its headlines. Possibly the reporter was angry since there wasn't room for him in the hall.
I thank everyone who came over from nearby and farther away, and those who called and wrote during the day, for their support! Below is my own statement in text form. A transcription of the prosecutor's statements should be finished at a later time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The foundation of my text is the newspaper Kaleva's primary editorial from May 20th, 2008. It included the following portion:
"It is indisputable that Finland is one of Western Europe's most violent countries, and that the violence is inextricably related to alcohol use. Killing people while intoxicated is a national, maybe even genetic characteristic."
Many people, myself included, thought that this kind of argument is not only absurd, but also highly offensive. The editorial was reported to the Council for Mass Media in Finland, which however refused to do anything about it. The secretary of Council, Nina Porra, commented on the decision this way:
"The writer seems to refer to studies where binge drinking has been found to be a special characteristic of Finnish alcohol culture. Intoxication and violence have also been proved to be connected. The writer doesn't present the genetic background as a fact, but simply as her own supposition."
The Office of the Prosecutor General also refused to take any action against the newspaper Kaleva, even if crimes of incitement are part of its domain.
In order to prove that such arguments are highly offensive, I turned the newspaper Kaleva's sentence into parody where "Finns" were replaced by "Somalis". My hypothesis was that Somalis are under the special protection of media and officials, and an argument that is permissible to present about Finns becomes impermissible when it is about Somalis. My own version was as follows:
"Robbing passers-by and living as parasites on tax money is the national, maybe even genetic characteristic of Somalis."
In order to make fun of The Council for Mass Media in Finland I mentioned in the text that I present this argument as supposition, not as a fact. In addition I proved that by using crime statistics, the argument about Somalis can be proved just as effectively as Kaleva's argument about Finns.
I emphasize that, unlike the writer of newspaper Kaleva's primary editorial, I didn't present my own, offensive argument as my opinion, but used it to criticize and insult double standards. Factually speaking, and considering the mechanisms of evolution, the mere thought of living as a parasite on tax funds or killing people while intoxicated as being genetic characteristics of some population is insane.
I note that the criminal law's statute about incitement against national group doesn't put different groups in unequal positions. It doesn't state that it is permissible to slander one group, but not another. In addition, the sixth article of Finnish constitution states: "All people are equal before the law." I interpret this as meaning that every ethnic group is also equal before the law. In my opinion the equality means that law doesn't just equally restrict the behavior of every people, but also protects everyone with equal force.
Therefore: Even if I had presented the argument about Somalis as my opinion and not as demonstrative material, the fact that an indictment was made against me for my proposition concerning Somalis but not against newspaper Kaleva for its proposition concerning Finns, would be in conflict with the equality section of the constitution. However, in this case this is irrelevant, since - as stated - the intent to offend mentioned in the charge is lacking. This case is comparable to accusing a history textbook of Nazi propaganda, since it details anti-Semitic arguments once presented by Nazis.
Another part mentioned in the charge is as follows:
"The prophet Mohammed was a pedophile and Islam is a religion that sanctifies pedophilia, and is therefore a pedophile religion."
This sentence is related to discussion where I criticize the idea of the subjective offensiveness of some sentence being a sufficient criteria for its judicial offensiveness. In other words, if some group is offended by sentence X, sentence X is illegal irrespective of whether it is true or not. In my opinion, stating of facts cannot and must not be criminal, even if they offend someone. This is also a problem of equality. For example, a Muslim is offended by criticism of his religion far more easily than an average Christian. If subjective offensiveness suffices as the elements of a crime, the law protects a Muslim with greater force than it protects a Christian.
My sentences about Mohammed and Islam weren't opinions, but inescapably logical conclusions based on known facts. I don't use the word "pedophile" as psychopathological concept, but in its popular meaning of a person having sex with children. The traditional Muslim knowledge, the hadith literature, tells us that Mohammed had sex with his wife Aisha when she was nine years old. A nine-year-old is seen as a child today, and physically she was a child in 7th century, no matter what her judicial status was. Therefore, if Mohammed had sex with Aisha and Aisha was a child, Mohammed had sex with a child.
That Mohammed is a holy figure to Muslims cannot make him immune to criticism in West, especially if criticism is based on undisputed facts. In addition to being a holy figure to Muslims, he was also a historical person, a war leader, a politician, and a demagogue, who must be a permissible target of criticism just like other important historical figures.
What does it mean that "Islam is a religion that sanctifies pedophilia, and is therefore a pedophile religion"? Mohammed's way of life, or sunna, is in every respect exemplary according to Islam. I quote professor Jaakko HÃ¤meen-Anttila's Pocket Dictionary of Islam from year 2001:
"The sunna is a binding example for Muslims, and the responsibility of every pious Muslim is to follow the example of the prophet Mohammed. Prophet Mohammed was [...] protected from error (ma sum), so nothing in his behavior was wrong or not intended by God."
In addition, professor HÃ¤meen-Anttila states in his Handbook of Islam from year 2004:
"During his life, the Prophet didn't act solely based on the contemporary situation, but also keeping in mind the future. The details of Prophet's life were meant to be imitated forever by the Islamic community."
Islam holds everything Mohammed did as exemplary and according to God's will, including having sex with his child wife. Therefore it is justifiable to say that Islam sanctifies pedophilia. It must be noted that I am speaking of Islam as a doctrine, not of Muslims, most of whom do not live according to Islam's demands. However, this is far more than a theoretical problem. Pedophiliac practices in the Islamic world and the Muslim communities of the West are justified precisely on the prophet Mohammed's example. I remind you that last winter the imam of Finland's Islamic Community, Khodr Chehab, bragged in public about having wed 14-year old children into Islamic marriage, and thought that 11 years is a suitable age of marriage for girls.
I refer here to some decisions made by The Office of Prosecutor General.
The first is from March 2005. The subject was a newspaper article by a certain pastor, "White and Black Devil", in which, according to the Deputy Prosecutor General, the Pope and the holy institutions of Catholic and Orthodox churches were criticized harshly and occasionally mockingly. The text was studied as incitement against a national group and a disturbance of religious worship. The Deputy Prosecutor General stated that there was no reason to suspect crime in the matter, and amongst other things, justified it as follows:
"Freedom of speech doesn't merely cover such facts and thoughts that are gladly received, that are thought harmless or regarded without interest. Freedom of speech also covers such messages that offend, shock and disturb the state or some of its national groups."
During year 2006, Suomen Sisu published on its internet pages the controversial Danish Mohammed cartoons. There was an investigation request and a preliminary investigation, but the process ended during the June of that year, when the prosecutor Kalske made the decision to not raise charges. Kalske justified it in this fashion:
"It cannot be assumed that the suspects acted in order to offend the religious sensibilities of people that the law refers to. On the contrary I consider it credible that suspects meant to make a kind of objection against the public policy."
My case and the case of Suomen Sisu are highly similar, though with the difference that in the case of my text, the lack of motivation to offend isn't a matter of interpretation, but completely obvious from the context. The reason for presenting the sentences has been clearly spelled out, even in the title.
I point out that in the prosecution order, prosecutor Kalske has completely disregarded the explanation I gave during the preliminary investigation about my motives. As I see it, he has violated his official responsibility to objectively consider the pros and cons of initiating the prosecution. It is the responsibility of the prosecutor to justify why he thinks my argument about Islam and Mohammed has been presented in order to offend, and not as a protest against public policy, as I argue.
I'll refer to still one decision of the Office of Prosecutor General, from January 2009. The religious community called Word and Praise had filed a crime report about web site called Bloodgroup. On its front page it stated that "The intent of Bloodgroup is to insult the Word and Praise Congregation and religion in general." The report was about disturbance of religious worship. I quote some of Bloodgroup's material:
"Christ. We'd f*** Christ. Jesus Christ was a f****t. What does Bible say about having sex with kids? It's the only way to enjoy sex."
According to Prosecutor Kalske, there was no probable reason to suspect the disturbance of religious worship.
As we see, the cases that have been quoted and their justifications are in roaring conflict with this prosecution. This is violating my right to equal treatment before the law, and is a pure abuse of official power.
In the end I point out that, as much as my opinions have made reporters and politicians cry, the text "A few baits for Mika Illman" has received no attention whatsoever before this process. No one has been offended or incited, excluding Prosecutor Kalske. This is because everyone who has read the essay has understood what it is about. That it is criticism pointed at the media and officials. It is only Prosecutor Kalske who has turned the comment about Somalis into something offensive by detaching it from its context. Detached from its context it is precisely as offensive as the newspaper Kaleva's primary editorial which it parodied.
You'll probably guess what the deputy chairman of Finland's PEN, freedom of speech specialist Jarkko Tontti, thinks about this. The excuses and the strawmen are approaching a desperate level.