Krekar held after high court loss

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UPDATED: Islamic cleric Mullah Krekar was back under arrest Wednesday morning after Norway’s highest court upheld two lower court rulings that Krekar can be extradited to face terrorism charges in Italy. The Høyesterett’s panel of judges threw out Krekar’s appeal of the extradition order, but Krekar’s longtime defense attorney plans to keep fighting.

It was here, at a meeting with members of the Foreign Press Association in Oslo, that Mullah Krekar made death threats against former cabinet minister Erna Solberg. PHOTO: Nina Berglund/Views and News

It was here, at a meeting with members of the Foreign Press Association in Oslo six years ago, that Mullah Krekar made death threats against Norway’s current prime minister, Erna Solberg. They landed him in jail, and came after a string of other charges against him over the years. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) arrested Krekar shortly after the Norwegian Supreme Court’s decision became known. The arrest was made, according to PST, “to secure the extradition” and make sure Krekar didn’t try to avoid it. He was due to face a custody hearing on Thursday.

Brynjar Meling, who has defended Krekar for years in the many cases that have been brought against him, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he and Krekar were “surprised” by the Norwegian Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Krekar’s appeal. Meling said he and Krekar also wondered “why the Supreme Court didn’t want to hear the evidence we were ready to present.”

Now Meling is planning new legal challenges on several fronts, including a formal complaint to the justice ministry, a new civil lawsuit and an appeal to the international Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Justice Ministry officials, however, appear prepared to act swiftly to carry out the extradition order now that it’s been cleared by Norway’s own high court.

Meling initially told NRK he intended to file a formal complaint opposing Krekar’s pending extradition with the Justice Ministry, where it would be forwarded to be acted upon by King Harald at a Council of State. That’s the weekly meeting of the king and government ministers where it’s unlikely to be met favourably. While politicians stressed Wednesday that the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Krekar’s extradition shows that state systems and regulations work, state officials have already been trying for years to deport Krekar. He was first declared a threat to national security back in 2003, also because of various terrorism allegations and statements made by Krekar that were interpreted as threats. The only reason he has not been sent back to his native Iraq, where he led a guerrilla group and later has expressed support for fundamentalist Islamic organizations including IS, is because Norwegian officials have been unable to extract a guarantee from Iraqi officials that he not be executed.

Then, last year, came the demand from Italian officials that Krekar be extradited to Italy after an investigation led to charges that he and others have led a terrorist network in Europe. Norwegian officials appeared more than willing to grant Italy’s request but Krekar, through Meling, fought it. Even though Krekar has criticized Norway and western society in general for years, he hasn’t wanted to leave. Meling has fought hard, often successfully, to make sure Krekar isn’t sent out of the country, where Krekar’s wife, now-grown children and even his mother-in-law have had residence permission as well.

Meling said he thus will also work towards bringing Krekar’s fight against extradition to the international Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and, after Krekar was arrested, that he was also considering launching a new round of civil action in the local courts. That could delay the extradition to Italy, but Justice Minstry officials told NRK that they’re ready to act on the extradition order that’s effectively been upheld by the Supreme Court and allows them to put Krekar and an alleged 43-year-old accomplice on a flight to Rome.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund