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TOMORROW: Finnish politician on trial for Bible tweet  

HELSINKI (30 August 2023) – Tomorrow, the criminal trial of Finnish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola will be heard by the Helsinki Court of Appeal. Both have been criminally charged with “hate speech” for publicly sharing their faith-based beliefs.  

Räsänen, Finland’s former Minister of the Interior, was charged for “agitation of a minority group” for a 2019 tweet on marriage and sexuality, in addition to a 2019 radio debate and 2004 pamphlet. The charge falls under the section of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” of the Finnish criminal code. The bishop was charged for publishing the pamphlet.  The prosecution is demanding tens of thousands of euros in fines and the censorship of publications reflecting Räsänen’s beliefs on marriage and sexuality. Despite their unanimous acquittal at the Helsinki District Court in 2022, the prosecution appealed the “not guilty” verdict on the basis that the Court reached the wrong conclusion, which the Finnish legal system permits. Learn more here 

 “In a democratic society, everyone should be free to share their beliefs without fear of state prosecution. Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and endangers democracy. The relentless prosecution of Päivi Räsänen has not only consumed four years of her life, it also intimidates others into silence. State authorities have no business silencing ideas they dislike. That’s why this case is not just about Päivi, it is about everyone’s right to speak freely,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, serving on Räsänen’s legal team, and author of ‘Censored: How European Hate Speech Laws are Threatening Freedom of Speech’.   

Trial for a tweet 

Police investigations against Räsänen commenced in June 2019. A member of the Finnish Lutheran church, her tweet questioned the church’s sponsorship of ‘Pride 2019,’ accompanied by an image of Bible verses. 

For this, she was subjected to a total of 13 hours of police interrogations over several months, including being frequently asked by police to explain her understanding of the Bible. In April 2021, Finland’s Prosecutor General brought three criminal charges against Räsänen.  

Räsänen has served as a member of the Finnish 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. She was most recently reelected to parliament in April 2023. 

The Bible on trial 

The case has garnered global media attention as human rights experts voice concern over the threat to free speech in Finland and beyond.  

During the first trial in early 2022 trial, the prosecution attacked core Christian teachings and cross-examined the bishop on his theology. The prosecutor quoted Old Testament Bible verses and criticized the adage “love the sinner, hate the sin”.  

Räsänen’s defense, supported by legal advocacy organization ADF International, argued that finding Räsänen guilty would be a grave violation of human rights, significantly damaging free speech in Finland. In dismissing all charges against Räsänen and Pohjola, the district court held that, “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts”. 

Press conference registration 

ADF International will host a press conference after the appeal trial on 1st September at 17:00 CEST. Dr. Päivi Räsänen, MP, Bishop Juhana Pohjola, Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, and Finnish criminal defense lawyer, Matti Sankamo, will be available for questions after a brief statement by Räsänen. Please register here to access the Teams link for the press conference:  

To request an interview with Räsänen and a member of her legal team from ADF International, contact Sofia Hörder at [email protected] / +43 676 362 5093   

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