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HELSINKI (Reuters) - A Finnish court banned neo-Nazi group the Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL) on Thursday, saying there was an "urgent social need" to shut down the group which it said spread hate speech and incited violence.

Police had asked that the far-right group, which the Finnish intelligence service says aims to create a national socialist state, be closed down.

"The association offends ethnic groups and spreads hate speech," the district court in Pirkanmaa, in the country's southwest, said in its verdict.

"In addition to offending and hateful expressions ... the association urges its supporters to use violence and harassment against alleged enemies.

"There is an urgent social need to shut down an association like PVL," the court said.

A member of the group was sentenced to two years in jail last year following death of a 28-year-old man he had assaulted during a demonstration in Helsinki.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise in Finland, a country of 5.5 million where about 32,000 migrants and refugees arrived during Europe's migrant crisis in 2015.

(Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Jussi Rosendahl and Catherine Evans)

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Reuters