National Police Board: Effigy of Turkish President should not have been seized

Publication date 17.5.2024 13.41
News item

The National Police Board of Finland has taken a stand on the actions of the police in a demonstration. Under the Board’s decision, Helsinki Police Department had no right to pre-emptively seize an effigy depicting the President of Turkey.

Helsinki Police justified the decision on the basis of a defamation offence, the attempt of which, however, is not a punishable offence.

“Whereas the fact that the police have a lawful and socially desirable motive for their actions does not in itself justify the action of the police, which must have a ground for jurisdiction in law,” the decision states.

The role of the police is to safeguard the right to demonstrate, but on the other hand to ensure that demonstration does not endanger public order and safety or violate the interests and rights of outsiders.

The National Police Board brought its objections to the attention of the public officials involved. Otherwise, the case warrants no further action.

Burning a photo may launch a pre-trial investigation

The National Police Board has taken a stand on the actions of the police in two separate incidents involving the burning of photographs of the Turkish and Russian presidents. No demonstration notification had been made to the police in advance. In one incident an investigation was opened into the burning of the photograph but not in the other. In both incidents, the National Police Board said that the decisions were justified.

On a general level, the National Police Board states that even severe criticism directed at political decision-makers and matters of general importance to society enjoys increased protection of freedom of expression. The National Police Board considered it possible that burning a photograph of an identifiable person may, in some contexts, fulfil the criteria of, for example, a defamation offence or a rescue offence related to an open fire.

The police have discretionary powers to remove flags

In its decision, the National Police Board also dealt with the use of the flags of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) during demonstrations. In Oulu, the police did not intervene. In Helsinki, flags were banned because they were considered to endanger public order and safety.

According to the National Police Board's decision, the decision of the Oulu police does not warrant any action. It did not comment on the activities of the Helsinki Police Department because, according to the decision of the Helsinki Administrative Court, the police department has been able to ban PKK flags at the demonstration within the limits of its discretion. The judgment is not final.


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