Prosecutor Appeals Bible-Tweet Case to Finnish Supreme Court
State prosecution against Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen and Bishop continues, despite Appellate Court confirming unanimous “not guilty” ruling. Prosecution calls for tens of thousands in fines and censorship of MP’s Bible tweet.
HELSINKI (Jan. 12, 2023) — The Finnish state prosecutor will appeal against the second unanimous court decision which exonerated a Finnish MP and bishop of “hate speech” allegations for sharing their faith-based beliefs. The prosecution is demanding tens of thousands of Euros in fines and insisting that Räsänen’s and Pohjola’s publications be censored. On Nov. 14, 2023, the Helsinki Court of Appeals had dismissed all charges against Räsänen and Pohjola, stating that it “has no reason, on the basis of the evidence received at the main hearing, to assess the case in any respect differently from the District Court.” The Supreme Court must now decide whether it will hear the case.
“After my full exoneration in two courts, I’m not afraid of a hearing before the Supreme Court. Even though I am fully aware that every trial carries risks, an acquittal from the Supreme Court would set an even stronger positive precedent for everyone’s right to free speech and religion. And if the Court decided to overturn the lower courts’ acquittals, I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as the European Court of Human rights, if necessary,” said Päivi Räsänen, MP.
The Process is Part of the Punishment
The former Minister of the Interior had been charged with “hate speech” for sharing her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics, in a 2019 tweet, during a 2019 radio discussion, and in a 2004 church pamphlet. Bishop Juhana Pohjola faced charges for publishing Räsänen’s pamphlet for his congregation almost two decades ago. Their case has garnered global media attention this year, as human rights experts voiced concern over the threat this case posed to free speech in Finland.
“The state’s insistence on continuing this prosecution despite such a clear and unanimous ruling by both the Helsinki District Court and Court of Appeal is alarming. Dragging people through the courts for years, subjecting them to hour-long police interrogations, and wasting taxpayer money in order to police people’s deeply held beliefs has no place in a democratic society. As is so often the case in ‘hate speech’ trials, the process has become of the punishment,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, supporting Räsänen’s legal defence.
13 Hours of Police Interrogations Over Biblical Teachings
Police investigations against Räsänen started in June 2019. As an active member of the Finnish Lutheran church, she had addressed the leadership of her church on Twitter/X and questioned its official sponsorship of the LGBT event ‘Pride 2019’, accompanied by an image of Bible verses from the New Testament book of Romans. Following this tweet, further investigations against Räsänen were launched, going back to a church pamphlet Räsänen wrote almost 20 years ago.
Over several months, Räsänen endured a total of thirteen hours of police interrogations about her Christian beliefs — including being frequently asked by the police to explain her understanding of the Bible.
The Bible-Tweet Trial
In April 2021, Finland’s Prosecutor General brought three charges of “agitation against a minority group” against Räsänen. They fall under the ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity’ section in the Finnish criminal code. Räsänen and Bishop Pohjola faced two days of trial at the Helsinki District Court on Jan. 24 and Feb. 14 2022. The Bible was front and center at the trial as the prosecutor began the day by presenting Bible verses, she took issue with.
On March 30 2022, the Helsinki District Court unanimously acquitted them, stating that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.” The prosecution then appealed the “not guilty” ruling in April 2022. The case was then heard by the Helsinki Court of Appeal on Aug. 31-Sept. 1, 2023. On Nov. 14, 2023, the court confirmed Räsänen and Pohjola’s acquittal.
Räsänen has served as a Finnish Member of Parliament since 1995. From 2004-2015 she was chair of the Christian Democrats and from 2011-2015 she was the Minister of the Interior. During this time, she held responsibility for church affairs in Finland.
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