Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Finland: the racist attack that never happened

Jouni K. Kemppainen:

Kajaani District Court handed down a decision on Tuesday concerning scuffles that had taken place between Finns and immigrants at a shopping centre in Kajaani in July 2005. The Jordanian owner of a pizzeria was sentenced to 40 day fines for assault. Two immigrants who worked in the restaurant got 60 day fines for assault. An immigrant who was eating in the restaurant at the time was sentenced to ten day fines for possession of a knife.

The Finns involved in the incident, six men, were suspected of aggravated disturbing of the peace. Charges against them were dismissed.

The media originally portrayed this incident as having been perpetrated by Finnish racists:

How did this come about?

Pekka Vasala, managing editor of Kainuun Sanomat says that the first story was based on a statement from the police.

"We had nothing but that one story, that the police initially believed. The police soon got a different picture of the events, but they did not tell it to us."

Responsibility for giving out information was with Ari Kylmäniemi of the Kajaani Police. He was the one who first speculated that the act might have involved a racist element. Kylmäniemi says that under the classification rules surrounding criminal complaints the crime had to be classified as a case of racism, because there had been shouting with racist content.

"Because these are sensitive matters, we easily interpret them as racist.

There was also plenty of pressure from above. Interior Minister Kari Rajamäki called for an internal investigation. Already in the following week two inspectors from the Police Section of Oulu Province came to investigate possible racism in the Kajaani police.

"It seems as if many had lost bowel control when the predominant view was that it would have been a racist crime", Kylmäniemi ponders.

The Kajaani police were reprimanded by the Police Section of Oulu Province for inadequate dissemination of information. The erroneous information should have been rectified.

"We couldn’t publicly clarify a matter that was incomplete."

Here is what really happened:

The court found that insults had been exchanged on both sides in the yard of the shopping centre. As a result, a scuffle broke out between the immigrants in the pizzeria and the Finns. One of the Finns lost consciousness and fell to the ground, when he was struck in the back of the head with a wooden object. Another was struck in the back with a chair.

Two Finnish men fought back. In the midst of the melee one of the Finns stepped into the pizzeria, threw the cue stick from a pool table at the employees and left. Nothing else happened in the pizzeria.

Naturally, it is possible that the court system made an unfair decision. That possibility will be examined by the Court of Appeals.

However, it seems clear that in the name of tolerance, the media made news about a gruesome attack in on a pizzeria - a crime that never happened.

Immigrants get fines following Kajaani pizzeria brawl last year

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