Finnish police in court over Putin entry on criminal database

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has called for an energy alliance with Europe (AFP Photo/Dmitry Kostyukov)

Helsinki (AFP) - Three Finnish police officers appeared in court Wednesday over their role in maintaining a database of criminal suspects to which Russian President Vladimir Putin's name was added.

The internal police database contains the names of people suspected of having committed crimes punishable by at least six months in jail.

Putin's name was discovered on the list in 2013 -- with the Russian leader entered in the registry as an alleged contributor to gang-related crime in his homeland.

The media revelation of the unfounded entry caused scandal, forcing the Finnish police to publicly apologise for its "serious error" and triggering an investigation.

State prosecutor Jarmo Hirvonen said the two senior police officials and the database manager could face fines for negligence for allegedly failing to control the use of the list.

All three pleaded not guilty to the negligence charge, claiming they had not been given orders to supervise the list.

Hirvonen said the register contained a "barrage" of entries claimed to be erroneous.

"The Putin entry is just one of them," he told AFP.

Putin's name had been on the list for about two weeks before it was deleted after the scandal broke.

In a statement at the time, the police said there "was no legal reason for doing this" and expressed regret for "the improper use of the list."

Putin's spokesperson said the president reacted to the news "with irony" and did not request any action to be taken against the officers.

Finland has a delicate relationship with Russia, with which it fought a war in 1939-1940 and again from 1941 to 1944.