Räsänen's prosecutor gets award for "promoting freedom of expression"


Northern Europe


Raija Toivainen. Photo National Prosecutor's Authority

Raija Toivainen, Finland's top lawyer who is prosecuting Päivi Räsãnen, has received the Justice Award from the Bar Association. She is seen as "exceptionally able" to promote the freedom of expression.

This is reported by the news platform Verkkouutiset. Toivainen started as prosecutor general in 2018. In 2019, she started the case against Päivi Räsänen. This Christian politician had explained in a radio program that the Biblical view of marriage is a relation between one man and one woman. And that sexuality is meant for this exclusive relationship.

As a prosecutor, Toivainen has said that this vision is wrong and insulting to homosexuals and other sexual minorities. The statement prepared for the appeal case repeats this and adds a comparison with the Nazi era.

Internationally, Toivainen is mostly known for her effort in the Räsänen case. From that point of view, the price is a surprise and a little ironic.

Räsänen has always understood her case as a case about religious freedom and freedom of expression. In her opinion, the prosecutor wants the state to limit this freedom. From that perspective, it is remarkable that the prosecutor is awarded by her colleagues with a price for "open-mindedness in supporting freedom of expression".

Outstanding work

According to the Bar Association, prosecutor general Raija Toiviainen has been a courageous reformer and a visible initiator who has not allowed hate speech to influence her work. She receives the annual price for her outstanding work in promoting justice.

According to the press release, Toiviainen has, over the years, become known to the general public for her views and initiatives in the administration of justice. In her very first task as Prosecutor General, Ms Toiviainen tackled a major reform: the creation of the National Prosecution Authority in 2019.

Valtakunnansyyttäjä Raija Toiviainen.jpeg
Raija Toivainen. Photo National Prosecutor's Authority

According to Hanna Räihä-Mäntyharju, President of the Bar Association, as Prosecutor General, Ms Toiviainen has shown exceptional ability and open-mindedness in various initiatives in the rapidly changing grey areas of the administration of justice, such as the interpretation of freedom of expression. Although individual decisions on prosecution have awakened much debate and disagreement, Ms Toiviainen has, according to Räihä-Mäntyharju, courageously done the job she was meant to do. As a result of her initiatives, Toiviainen has also had to put up with a lot of harassment and hate speech, things that the Prosecutor General had not previously been subjected to in a position of authority. Still, she has not let it interfere with her work.

It is the ninth time the Justice Price has been awarded.

Curbing freedom

Others say that Toivainen, in tackling hate speech, is curbing freedom of expression. Last year, the prosecution of Räsänen, led by Toivainen, inspired ten leading law professors from the United States to complain about Finland's direction concerning the freedom of expression. They approached the US Commission on International Religious Freedom for this. They saw this case as a "straightforward act of oppression", as was reported by CNE last year.

“Prosecutor of Christianity”

Also, in Finland, the news about this price came as a surprise for some. The comments under the news at Verkkouutiset reflect that. Next time, Vladimir Putin gets the Nobel Peace Price, one says. Open-mindedness in support of free expression, another asks, "the opposite is true." A third one calls her "the prosecutor of Christianity."



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