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Trial Against Finnish Human Rights Advocate Begins

Submitted by on Saturday, 26 February 2011.    1,074 views No Comment
Trial Against Finnish Human Rights Advocate Begins

Well-known Finnish human rights activist and IT entrepreneur Mikael Storsjö, who has helped dozens of Chechen asylum seekers reach Finland, could face a prison sentence for his activities.

According to the Finnish media, a trial against Mikael Storsjö and Turkish citizen Denis Berkat (Abdulhamid Mechiyev) began at Vantaa District Court on February 24th. The court hearing was conducted in Swedish, the second official language of Finland, because Storsjö is a Swedish-speaker. The Finnish Prosecutor, Mikko Sipilä is asking for jail time on three counts of arranging illegal entry to the country, with one of the counts to be aggravated. According to the indictment, Mikael Storsjö has brought or attempted to bring a total of 22 Chechens, nine of them underage, from Istanbul to Finland. The Chechens did not have valid travel documents. The Prosecutor claims that some people in Turkey and Georgia were also involved in these activities.

However, in reality Mikael Storsjö bought airline tickets for Chechens from Turkey to St. Petersburg via Helsinki from his own pocket, only for humanitarian reasons. The refugees remained in Helsinki, where all of them were later granted political asylum in Finland.

During the court hearing, Mikael Storsjö said openly that he was acting on humanitarian grounds, did not receive any material gain from his actions, and was not associated with any criminal group, but only with Amnesty International. In response to the objection by the prosecutor that he received moral benefits in the form of his promotion as a defender of human rights, Mikael Storsjö said on the contrary, he now only gets death threats as moral compensation. “I have decided to help people and I have taken a deliberate risk while doing so,” said Storsjö.

Mikael Storsjö petitioned the court to summon a large number of people as witnesses for his defense, in particular the deputy chairman of the Commission on Human Rights of the European Parliament, Heidi Hautala. The next court session is scheduled for 9am on April 15th.

In the meantime, Storsjö was pleased with the first round of the trial. According to him, he considers his case as absolutely clear and hopes for good results once it is completed.

On the other hand, it must be noted that FSB agent and Finnish Pastor, Juha Molari was among the observers of the hearing. Strangely, he openly filmed the participants on video and still cameras.

The day before the first court hearing, the Finnish newspaper Verkkouutiset published their interview with Mikael Storsjö.

“I think I did nothing other than help the Finnish government fulfill its obligations under international agreements regarding the refugees. Moreover, it is easier for political asylum seekers to adapt in a country if they are helped by a mentor from among the local residents,” said Storsjö. Also, the newspaper has noted that by Finnish law it is not a crime to help refugees if they are in danger and if such help is not associated with benefits for the helper.

The newspaper sarcastically asked Mikael Storsjö “for your hobby of helping the Chechens, have you spent 10,000 to 15,000 Euros already?”

Storsjö gave an answer like a lesson and said: “Yes, but some people spent more than this playing golf.”

*Text was written by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco

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