August 26, 2015 / 9:42 AM / 4 years ago

Finnish lawmaker exits party group after anti-immigrant remarks

HELSINKI (Reuters) - A lawmaker for Finland’s co-ruling party, the Finns, said on Wednesday he would temporarily resign from the party’s group of parliamentarians following a public outburst over his anti-immigration remarks.

Thousands of people rallied against hate speech in Finland last month after parliamentarian Olli Immonen called in a Facebook post for a fight against multiculturalism.

“I’m dreaming of a strong, brave nation that will defeat this nightmare called multiculturalism .... I have strong belief in my fellow fighters. We will fight until the end for our homeland and one true Finnish nation,” he wrote.

The statement sparked a month-long controversy and questions over the party’s views and its relationship with extremist movements.

Immonen told a news conference on Wednesday that he does not accept violence or have connections with the far right. But he said he would step aside to let the party’s parliamentary group focus on its work, and return after two months if allowed.

The Finns party, led by Foreign Minister Timo Soini, entered government for the first time after coming second in April’s general election. It campaigned on a platform demanding a tougher line on euro zone bailouts and immigration.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl, editing by Larry King

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