Attention on Yemen raised hopes for solving Norwegian murder case

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Authorities in Yemen are feeling the heat from foreign governments over the terror threats emanating from the strife-torn country. That may pressure them into finally extraditing the son of a wealthy Yemen man who’s suspected of murdering a Norwegian student in London in March 2008, reported newspaper Aftenposten. Experts later expressed doubts.

The nearly two-year-old murder case already has set off political friction in Norway, where the victim’s family has complained that Norwegian authorities aren’t doing enough to win justice for the murdered 23-year-old student Martine Vik Magnussen.

She was last seen leaving a London nightclub in the city’s fashionable Mayfair district, in the company of fellow student Farouk Abdulhak. She was later found strangled in the cellar of Abdulhak’s apartment building, and he fled the country.

British police think he’s since been hiding out in his native Yemen, which has no extradition treaty with either Norway or the UK. His father is one of the wealthiest men in the Yemen.

The murder victim also had an affluent father, Odd Petter Magnussen, and he won’t rest until her attacker is brought to justice. He engaged in a public debate with Norway’s Foreign Ministry last fall, and joined a candlelit protest march to the ministry in Oslo, demanding that government authorities do more to get Abdulhak into a court of law.

Norwegian authorities have claimed they’re doing all they can, but the British authorities have jurisdiction in the case. Now Magnussen has hired his own security analyst, Arne Elias Corneliussen, who is in Yemen working on the case.

Corneliussen told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday that he now thinks authorities in Yemen may be more willing to meet British demands for Abdulhak’s extradition, in return for getting more help to battle terrorist insurgents in Yemen. New international attention directed at Yemen may also make it harder for Abdulhak to keep hiding out in his homeland.

“The Martine-case may explode in the American and Arab media,” said Corneliussen, who describes himself as a “political adviser” to the murder victim’s father and a spokesman for her family. His mission in Yemen is “to put pressure on the players involved, who are close to the suspect’s family and the authorities.”

That may help, but foreign policy researchers in Oslo think the anti-terror pressure on Yemen may hurt, not boost, chances for extraditing the younger Abdulhak. “When such big issues (like anti-terror) come up, all others get set aside,” Henrik Thune of the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI on Wednesday. He doesn’t think either British or American diplomats will bring up Magnussen’s murder in connection with anti-terror negotiations.

Cecilie Hellestveit of the University of Oslo’s center for human rights, agreed. “The major political drama playing out in Yemen won’t help the Martine case,” she told Aftenposten . The western diplomats, she said, won’t bring up controversial issues, adding that it’s “unrealistic” to think they’ll use it to pressure authorities in Yemen. The Magnussen family has a better chance, she said, trying to put pressure on the Abdulhak family, because the murder suspicions against their son can hurt their reputation.