August 18, 2018 / 3:44 PM / in 8 months

Far right, anti-fascists protest in Finland a year after knife attack

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Supporters of the far right and anti-fascists staged rival marches on Saturday in the city of Turku, the scene of Finland’s first militant Islamist attack a year ago.

Abderrahman Bouanane, a failed Moroccan asylum seeker who had seen himself as a soldier for Islamic State, stabbed two women to death and wounded eight other people in Turku’s main square on Aug. 18, 2017.

About 300 supporters of the Nordic Resistance Movement, a far-right group the Finnish intelligence service says aims to create a national socialist state, marched through the city centre on Saturday waving flags.

The counter rally, with about 1,000 demonstrators, shouted “No Nazis in Turku, no Nazis anywhere!”

The groups traded insults and bananas were thrown at the far-right group. The police kept the demonstrations apart and arrested 10 people.

The Nordic Resistance Movement was banned last year by a Finnish court but it is still allowed to demonstrate while it awaits the outcome of an appeal.

No official commemoration of last year’s attack was held.

“A tragic crime or its perpetrator do not deserve a commemoration day. We respect victims... by working every day for safety, mutual understanding between cultures and improving social integration of immigrants,” Turku mayor Minna Arve said in a statement.

In June, Bouanane was sentenced to life in prison.

Many Finns have called for tighter immigration rules after the attack. The centre-right government has urged parliament to fast-track a bill that would give authorities new powers to monitor citizens online.

Some officials have also promoted establishing better-controlled “return centres” to monitor more closely those who have been denied asylum.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Ros Russell

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