NEWS ANALYSIS: Days after Mullah Krekar agreed to speak to foreign journalists in Oslo but not the Norwegian press, local reaction to his remarks was still leading the country’s main newscasts during the weekend. It was ironic, a sign of local outrage and, perhaps, that Krekar’s media strategy had backfired badly.
It only took the local media about an hour to pick up Views and News’ coverage of Krekar’s meeting with the Foreign Press Association in Oslo, and to buy at least some of the video tape taken up at it. Other foreign journalists at the meeting had opted against filing their own immediate reports on the session, perhaps because Krekar had made threats before and perhaps because they determined he really hadn’t said anything new.
Krekar’s remarks, though, that Norway will “pay a price” if Norwegian officials deport him and he’s subsequently killed, hit a nerve among those on both ends of the political spectrum and was definitely considered “news” in the nation’s capital. Here was the man who had been granted safe haven in Norway since 1991 and cost Norwegian taxpayers millions since, saying that “my death will cost the Norwegian society,” and that “if a leader like Erna Solberg (a former government minister now in opposition as leader of the Conservative Party) sends me out, and I die, she will suffer the same fate.”
Reaction was swift, and explosive. The head of the opposition Progress Party called for Krekar’s immediate arrest and reported him to the police the next day. A state secretary in the Justice Ministry condemned Krekar’s remarks, and even Krekar’s own defense attorney, Brynjar Meling, told TV2 that such statements “weren’t the best application” for staying in Norway.
Reaction continued to grow on Friday, and Krekar led most radio broadcasts all day long. Officials confirmed various deportation plans, Justice Minister Knut Storberget vowed to step up efforts to deport Krekar and police officials said they were evaluating whether his threats were punishable and cause for his arrest.
By Saturday Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was calling Krekar’s threats against Norwegian politicians “despicable and unacceptable.” Stoltenberg, making an appearance at his Labour Party’s youth summer camp over the weekend, claimed his government had made progress in sending out other refugees “who don’t need protection” and was working hard to find a way to deport Krekar as well.
Krekar remains, however, subject to laws allowing execution if sent back home to Iraq, and Stoltenberg conceded that Norway won’t risk subjecting Krekar to a death sentence.
So Krekar can keep using the very democratic, humanitarian system he so harshly criticizes to protect himself. While condoning death sentences on Norwegian authorities, he’s using their policies to fend off his own capital punishment.
‘New tone’ to Krekar’s threats
Given his explosive statements at Thursday’s meeting, it would appear Krekar mostly needs protection from himself. As he bites the hand that has fed him for the past 19 years, though, some observers note a new sense of desperation around Krekar. As one commentator put it in newspaper Aftenposten, his threats carried “a new tone,” and were more concrete than earlier.
Krekar’s mood varied widely during Thursday’s session. He went from being humble and appealing for sympathy to suddenly espousing support for suicide bombers. One minute he was smiling, even laughing a bit, the next minute he was fierce and unyielding.
It remains unclear what will happen next, whether he’ll be arrested and placed in custody because of his threats, or whether he’ll be allowed to continue living with his wife and grown children at a secret address in Oslo and under police protection since being shot at last winter.
He said he didn’t want to talk to the Norwegian press because he has “found no sympathy” among them. He didn’t exactly gain any by refusing to meet them. Perhaps he’ll go back to his books and religious counseling, until he once again feels a need for more attention.