Norway’s Parliament looks set to update a law against making threats in public, after the country’s highest court (Høyesterett) upheld the release of an extremist blogger who police claimed had threatened them. Blogger Eivind Berge had urged the public to murder police officers over the Internet, but can’t be jailed because the Internet didn’t meet the court’s legal definition of “a public place.”
Current criminal law, according to the high court, doesn’t consider the Internet to either be “a public place” or constitute “printed matter.” While a local court in Bergen had ruled otherwise, an appeals court ruled that Berge couldn’t be held and ordered him released. Police appealed to the Norwegian Supreme Court but lost when the court upheld the appeals court ruling on Thursday.
‘Can’t live with this law’
Reaction to the ruling has been swift. The high court justices basically ruled that because Berge made his threats against the police on his blog, and not in a printed poster that he hung up around town or in the print media, the threats didn’t violate current Norwegian law against making threats in a public place or in print. The current law is from 1902, and lawmakers on both ends of the political spectrum now seem poised to quickly update and amend it.
“We must accept the ruling and the high court’s interpretation of the law,” Pål Lønseth, state secretary in the Justice Ministry from the Labour Party, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Friday. “At the same time, we can’t live with the law the high court had to interpret here. Therefore we’ll propose a change in the law to criminalize what this case is about.”
The proposed amendment to the law against making threats is expected to be sent quickly to the Parliament when it reconvenes after the annual summer recess. Lønseth said it will make expressions published on the Internet that urge criminal action illegal, as they are in print media. The government’s pending proposal is expected to win support in Parliament, also from opposition parties.
Ramifications for Krekar
Thursday’s high court ruling was welcomed, meanwhile, by the defense counsel for Islamic cleric Mullah Krekar, who also has published what have been determined to be death threats over the Internet. Krekar has been sentenced to five years in prison for making such threats and was jailed while awaiting his appeal, after he made more alleged threats and was considered dangerous.
His defense attorney Brynjar Meling told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the ruling decriminalizing what Berge had published may also apply to Krekar, indicating he would pursue the matter in an effort to free his client.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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