Norway has been unable to deport radical Islamic cleric Mullah Krekar but found a way on Monday to keep him in confinement at least for a few years. A city judge in Oslo sentenced Krekar on Monday to five years in jail for making threats against a former government minister and several identified Muslims who he felt have abandoned their faith.
The sentence was exactly what prosecutors had sought when they wrapped up their case against Krekar late last month. Krekar and his long-time defense attorney Brynjar Meling appealed on the spot, but it now looks likely that Krekar will spend time in custody.
He’s been in Norway since 1991 when he arrived as a refugee from northern Iraq. He later violated the terms of his asylum, however, when he repeatedly traveled back to Iraq to lead the guerrilla group Ansar al-Islam. Krekar has voiced support for Islamic terrorists, encourages holy war and, after years of controversy, was ultimately declared a threat to national security in Norway. Local authorities have been unable to deport him, however, because they lack guarantees he won’t be executed back home in Iraq.
It was statements he made at a meeting nearly two years ago with foreign correspondents in Norway, though, that led to Monday’s conviction. At the end of the lengthy session — held after shots had been fired at his former apartment in Oslo — Krekar said that if he’s ever sent back to Iraq and is killed there, “the same fate” will be suffered by the Norwegian government official he holds largely responsible for any pending deportation: Erna Solberg, the head of Norway’s Conservative Party who had formally expelled Krekar when she was a government minister before the current coalition took over in 2005.
Krekar said he hadn’t laid out an assassination plan for Solberg or other Norwegian government leaders, but claimed his followers would.
That, along with alleged death threats made against two men Krekar believes have abandoned Islam, was enough for Judge Per Fleisje in the Oslo City Court to find Krekar guilty of making death threats and having enough influence over religious followers that the threats could be carried out.
“Krekar is undoubtedly a religious leader, a high-profile opponent … at the same time he has been a leading politician in the Kurdish milieu in Iraq,” Fleisje said in court. “That gives him authority.”
The court thus determined that prosecutors had proved he has considerable influence over at least several hundred persons, and that multiple statements Krekar has made over the years can be deemed death threats. “Krekar doesn’t threaten to commit murder himself … but Krekar makes it clear to his sympathizers that he expects them to seek revenge on his behalf,” Fleisje said. “He puts considerable pressure on his followers.”
Krekar has never denied making statements that condone killing, but has denied they were threats because he merely has clarified what’s allowed under Sharia law.
Meling, Krekar’s attorney, said he was “disappointed” by the verdict as did co-counsel Arvid Sjødin, who claimed it was too strict. Sjødin also noted that Krekar was acquitted on charges of inciting terrorism. A new appeals trial was pending.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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