The Musta Barbari and Fares Al-Abaidi cases deal a further blow to police credibility in Finland

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Two rulings in two important cases involving ethnic profiling and suspected hate crime are a further stain on the credibility of the Finnish police. One of these took over six years to get a just ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court, and another one just slapped the hand of the suspect lightly.

Ethnic profiling, which the police have vehemently denied in Finland, saw its date in court after a long, winding, and painful process for the victims.

The legal path of singer Musta Barbari’s mother and sister to the Supreme Administrative Court:

  • They were stopped on July 9, 2016, by plainclothes policemen in the Helsinki city center on suspicion that they were prostitutes;
  • The mother and sister refused to give their ID and were found guilty in December 2017 by the police of disobedience;
  • An appeal was made to the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal, which found the police guilty of ethnic profiling and ordered them to pay a conditional fine of 10,000 euros to Musta Barbari’s mother and sister;
  • In April 2021, a Helsinki Administrative Court overturned the National Non-discrimination and Equality Tribunal’s decision;
  • On Thursday, the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland overturned the Helsinki Administrative Court’s ruling.

The ruling in favor of Musta Barbari´s mother and sister is another sad example of how Finland shuts its eyes and ears to the social ill of institutional racism. You can seek justice if you are very patient and willing to take a beating.

Reni Eddo-Lodge writes in her “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race:”

“I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race. Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the existence of structural racism and its symptoms. I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience. You can see their eyes shut down and harden. It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals. It’s like they can no longer hear us.”

While, after much suffering and waiting, Musta Barbari´s mother and sister saw justice, the Fares Al-Obaidi case was just starting.

Read the full story (in Finnish/paywall) here.

The Southern Ostrobothnia Administrative Court of Seinäjoki fined and sentenced only one person when a group attacked Al-Obaidi in June 2020.

Migrant Tales spoke with the prosecutor in July. According to him, there was no hate crime case because the attack against Al-Obaidi wasn’t due to his ethnicity.

Al-Obaidi disagrees. He said that they immediately called him derogatory, racist insults like mamu and the n-word when they started to argue. Moreover, only one person was convicted because the others remained quiet.

I asked in a posting for the prosecutor to consider the following factors:

  • The victim is a Muslim;
  • The perception of the victim is that he would have probably never have suffered such a violent attack if he were a white Finn;
  • Racist insults like mamu (a derogatory term for migrant) and the n-word were hurled at him by the attackers;
  • Some attackers knew Al-Abaidi’s religion and asked him to seek help from his God, Allah, while they attacked him;
  • Even if mamu was spray painted on his car, the vehicle was also vandalized. The police claim that their investigation did not find the suspect(s) who spraypainted the victim’s car;
  • The victim says that the incident changed his life, forcing him to suffer several disorders like from sleeping and concentration, among others;
  • Al-Albaidi’s mother, sister, and foreign community members were shaken by what happened. His sister fears going outdoors;
  • Not only was the victim attacked, but his friend’s wife, whom they insulted in a demeaning manner by trolling and calling her a “whore” to foreigners (suvakkihuora) on Facebook.

Claiming that racism, or specifically institutional racism, did not have anything to do with what happened to Al-Abaidi and Musta Barbari’s mother and sister is preposterous and burying one’s head in the sand. Musta Barbari’s long wait for justice is equally concerning. They show that the police and suspects can get away with a serious crime if their skin and background are the right color.

While it is surprising that only one person was fined and convicted in Al-Abaidi’s case, he should appeal the ruling, and we must begin and get ready for a long battle before he sees justice.