HELSINKI, Feb 28 — A Finnish police officer today was cleared of charges of negligence over the appearance of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s name on a database of criminal suspects.
Putin’s name was discovered on the list in 2013 as an alleged contributor to gang-related crime in his homeland.
The media revelation of the unfounded entry caused a scandal, forcing the Finnish police to publicly apologise for its “serious error” and triggering an investigation.
The police officer on trial, who was not publicly identified, was in charge of the internal police database, which contains the names of people suspected of having committed crimes punishable by at least six months in jail.
The Helsinki Court of Appeal ruled that the officer’s responsibilities in managing the list had not been defined clearly enough to hold him criminally liable for the mistake.
Similar charges of negligence against two other police officers were previously dismissed by a lower court.
After the scandal broke, Putin’s spokesperson said the president reacted to the news “with irony” and did not request any action be taken against the officers.
The Russian leader’s name had been on the list for about two weeks before it was deleted.
But it was unclear how it had appeared there.
Finland state prosecutor Jarmo Hirvonen said in 2015 that the register contained a “barrage” of entries claimed to be erroneous.
“The Putin entry is just one of them,” he said.
The Finnish police have been given stricter rules over using the database and revised all the entries to verify if they were legitimate.
The previous vague use of the register had led, for instance, to all participants to a gang member’s funeral to be listed in the database.
The prosecutor has 60 days to decide if she will appeal to the High Court.
Finland has a delicate relationship with giant neighbour, with which it fought a war in 1939-1940 and again from 1941 to 1944.
Earlier this month, Finland’s government announced plans to strengthen the country’s military capacity due to concerns over assertive behaviour from Russia. — AFP