In Yemen civil discontent is turning into a major uprising aimed at unseating top leaders. This may make a difference for Norwegian student Martine Vik Magnussen’s suspected murderer, who continues to seek refuge from prosecution in his home country.
In 2008, Magnussen was found brutally raped and murdered in the basement of fellow student Farouk Abdulhak’s apartment building in London. The Metropolitan police found sufficient evidence to bring charges against Abdulhak, but the suspect had fled to Yemen shortly after her death. The British and Norwegian governments, Magnussen’s father, former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik as well as the Justice for Martine foundation have all consistently petitioned that Farouk Abdulhak stand trial in Britain. Three years later, the case remains open.
This spring, members of Justice for Martine organized a Facebook-based boycott of Coca-Cola, successfully demanding that the corporation sever all ties with the suspect’s wealthy father who runs, among other things, a beverage empire and had done business with Coca-Cola for years. Foundation leader Marcus Rolandsen has expressed disappointment after newsmagazine ALFA recently reported that other members of the Abdulhak family still enjoy their investments, but says the foundation “has requested that Coca-Cola disprove the claims made by ALFA.”
Despite substantial pressure on both the Yemeni government and the Abdulhak family, Yemen’s ambassador to Norway, Nageeb Ahmed Obeid, told newspaper Aftenposten during a recent visit to Oslo that the country would not agree to extradition under any circumstances. “I adamantly urge the Metropolitan Police, the authorities in Britain and the family of Martine Vik Magnussen to agree to hold the trial against Farouk Abdulhak in Yemen,” the ambassador told Aftenposten.
A few days later Aftenposten reported that the political unrest in Yemen could cause Abdulhak to leave the country voluntarily. The suspect’s prominent businessman father, Shaher Abdulhak, has close ties to sitting president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose 32-year presidency is a source of controversy. In the event of full-scale revolution in Yemen, it is unclear whether the country will remain a safe haven for Farouk Abdulhak.
This thought is welcomed by proponents of the cause. “A voluntary solution is what the family and those left behind have always sought,” says Rolandsen.
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