2011-01-27 18:21:00

Finnish authorities forbid Anton Salonen to be Orthodox - human rights activist

St. Petersburg, January 27, Interfax - The ban by Finnish authorities to use Russian in communicating with Anton Salonen is having an adverse effect on the child's development, human rights campaigner Johan Backman told a press conference in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

"Finnish psychologists have prepared a report, whereby the ban on communication in Russian has had a negative effect on the child's development," said Backman, who represents the interests of Salonen and his mother Rimma.

Apart from the ban on Russian speech Anton Salonen was also banned from praying according to the Orthodox Canon, he said. The Finnish authorities said the decision about the child's religion must be made by his father, the activist said.

"However, we believe that Rimma Salonen, as the child's mother and guardian, had a full right to make a decision about christening Anton in the Orthodox religion," Backman added.

Currently, Finnish courts are hearing three cases involving the Salonen family, including the review of the permission to use the Russian language, he said.

The criminal case against Paavo Salonen (father) and the consul who helped smuggle the child out of Russia is being protracted for no reason, despite both men admitting that they took the child out of Russia, Backman said.

This could be due to the active support on the part of the Finnish authorities and press, he said.

Finland's Russophobic forces are trying to use Anton Salonen as a tool to worsen the relations between the two countries, Backman said.

"The child is now frightened and uptight, social workers said that he speaks broken Finnish, which could be the result of the ban on Russian," Backman added.

Anton Salonen has been in Finland for 654 days now.

Rimma Salonen took Anton to the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia following a divorce with Finnish citizen Paavo Salonen in 2008.

On April 12, 2009, several people, including Paavo, took the boy from Rimma. Aided by Simo Pietilainen, an employee of the Finnish Consulate General in St. Petersburg, Paavo Salonen smuggled his son to Finland in the trunk of a diplomatic car.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed his protest against this turn of events in a telephone conversation with his Finnish counterpart on May 14, 2009, describing the smuggling of a child from Russia against his mother's will as "a gross violation of the Russian law."

Rimma Salonen was later lured to Finland by a promise of a meeting with her son Anton and was detained. A Tampere court gave her a suspended sentence of 1.5 years and fined her 25,000 euros for kidnapping her son on October 13, 2009. After the sentence was handed down, the court allowed Salonen to meet with her son twice a month in the presence of police and social workers.

Salonen has appealed the court ruling.

After issuing the verdict the Finnish court allowed Rimma to see her son twice a month in the presence of police officers and social workers. Later Salonen appealed the court ruling with a district court in Turku, but on October 28, 2009 the upper court upheld the verdict, having reduced the son's compensation to EUR 10,000.