Nationalist Finns Party aide Pekka Kataja, who recently survived an attempt on his life, has backtracked on claims that his attackers were “Arab-looking”, instead speculating that political opponents could be behind the assault.
Pekka Kataja, Finns Party parliamentary aide to MP Jouni Kotiaho and campaign manager for Central Finland, has been assaulted at his home in the town of Jämsä.
Kataja survived the attack with a cracked skull, cerebral haemorrhaging, and three broken ribs.
Kataja, who initially claimed that he was attacked by “Arab-looking” perpetrators, later reverted himself. In an interview with national broadcaster Yle, Kataja said that his initial comments were made during a conversation in an ambulance on his way to the hospital after the assault.
“It wasn’t my intention to cast blame on that group. I don’t know who did this and I am trying to clarify the matter here”, Kataja said, regretting his “poor choice of words”.
The parliamentary aide stressed that his attackers, who came to the house purporting to deliver a package, were not foreigners, although one of them had dark hair. Kataja also said that while this person didn’t speak Finnish like a foreigner, he spoke with a different accent than the local one.
In a new twist to the plot, Kataja said that the only thing that makes sense for the attack is a political motive. He described himself as a critic of both immigration and so-called right-wing extremists.
“I have enemies in those circles. I strongly condemn right-wing extremism and have tried to remove them from the Finns chapter in Central Finland. I would almost think this was done by right-wing extremists, but that’s just my guess. The police will do their job and investigate and find a motive”, Kataja said.
Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho and party secretary Simo Grönroos earlier speculated that the attack was politically motivated and was not a random crime. “These guys came to Pekka Kataja’s door, asked whether he was home and were clearly aware of his party affiliation”, Halla-aho commented, stressing that his knowledge of the incident was based on Kataja’s own account.
The police are investigating the case as attempted manslaughter and have declined to comment on a possible motive. Lead investigator Markku Latvala said that a motive usually becomes clear once the perpetrators are apprehended and questioned. So far, other residents of Kataja’s apartment building have been interviewed. No eyewitnesses or suspects have been identified so far.
The nationalist, Eurosceptic, anti-immigration, anti-globalist Finns Party founded in the 1990s, has slowly grown in popularity, draining voters from other right-of-centre parties and even entering the government after the 2015 vote. In 2017, the party suffered a bitter schism as half of the Finns leadership, including its founder and perennial leader Timo Soini left. However, as the fledgling Blue Reform party flopped miserably in the 2019 election, the Finns re-emerged as the largest right-wing opposition party at 17.5 percent of the vote.