A local Finns Party politician in the west-coast town of Vaasa acknowledges that he donated a clock with Nazi insignia on it to a local right-wing extremist group.
City councillor Risto Helin says he gave a clock bearing a swastika and a portrait of Adolf Hitler to a local anti-immigrant club, but that he sees nothing wrong with it.
"I don't see anything wrong with it," Helin told Yle's Swedish-language news on Thursday. "I'm not racist and not a Nazi."
The clock and other Nazi memorabilia at the clubhouse in central Vaasa are portrayed in a photo reportage published by the Helsinki-based cultural magazine Image on Thursday, entitled "White Vaasa".
Helin also denies that his position as a member of the city council has anything to do with the case.
"I'm a regular person who can do whatever I want," he insisted. "It wouldn't make any difference if I'd given someone a clock with a picture of Stalin or Mao on it."
Finns colleague “shocked”
Maria Tolppanen, a Finns Party MP who is also on the Vaasa city council, said she was "shocked and disturbed."
Tolppanen, who had not heard of the incident, told Yle: "This is not a regular thing to do. I’ll raise the issue with the local party organisation. I should also take the matter up in Helsinki."
The largest opposition party in the Finnish Parliament has recently come under fire for its close links to the anti-immigrant group Suomen Sisu.
The Vaasa group, which simply calls itself "Kerho" ("The Club"), has a meeting space near Vaasa's railway station. The town has a population of some 66,000, about a quarter of them Swedish-speaking.
According to the Image article, the club members refer to themselves as patriots, racists and Nazis. Three years ago, some of them took part in a fight with young men of immigrant descent involving some 50 people. Last May, three men were fined as a result, two of them of Somali descent.
Nazi T-shirt in election ads
Yet another Finns Party politician is under fire for ties to an extremist group.
Dan Koivulaakso, co-author of a book on the far right in Finland, told Yle that Helin is a well-known neo-Nazi.
"I see this as yet another case where a member of the Finns Party is flirting with or has interactions with an extreme right-wing group," says Koivulaakso.
Two months ago, Koivulaakso took part in a discussion on the extreme right at Jyväskylä's main library that was disrupted by a stabbing.
He notes that Helin posed in his municipal election campaign ads wearing a T-shirt bearing the logo of the neo-Nazi organisation Blood & Honour, which is banned in several countries.
In September, Helin told the newspaper Turun Sanomat that he had bought the T-shirt at a flea market and did not know what it meant. The picture still appears on his Facebook page.
- Sources: Yle, Image, Turun Sanomat