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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Hate-video maker held in custody

A local court in Telemark County went along with prosecutors who asked to keep a 21-year-old man in custody for at least two more weeks, with media and personal communication prohibited. The young man has admitted producing and publishing a video that threatened Norway’s crown prince, prime minister and foreign minister.

Prosecutors intend to keep investigating his role in the video, which alarmed Norwegian authorities and sparked massive media coverage earlier this week. The defendant, meanwhile, insists he’s done nothing wrong.

He was arrested in Skien Wednesday night after Norway’s police intelligence unit PST tracked him down as the person who published the video on YouTube just a day earlier. The 21-year-old claims he made the video merely to express his opposition to Norway’s military presence in Afghanistan.

The video promoted a demonstration held by Islamic organizers in Oslo on Friday, that only attracted around 40 participants, far short of the 500 to 700 that organizers had expected. The video did otherwise grab the attention of Norwegian authorities, politicians and media, and sparked alarm, because it showed photos of Crown Prince Haakon, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre with text urging that “Allah” to “destroy them,” and suggesting that they should suffer painful deaths.

Stoltenberg said Friday that he has received other threats during his years in public life, but the video threat was “different,” because  it came in a form that enabled it to be widely distributed. He said he tried not to take it personally, though. “The video confirms, unfortunately, what we’ve seen in recent years, that there are more people with extreme views who express them,” Stoltenberg said. He added that he was glad the police had “done their job” and been able to arrest a man behind the threats so quickly.

The young man who made the video claims its contents were not meant as threats. His defense attorney, John Christian Elden, told NRK that his client thinks he’s landed in an “absurd” situation. “He maintains he was simply exercising his democratic right to freedom of expression,” Elden told NRK.

Police and prosecutors disagree, and have charged him with inciting terrorism and making threats against the authorities. They’re also investigating whether the defendant had help or cooperated with others in making the video.

The man reportedly works in the mobile phone business, was born in Telemark to parents from South America and was originally Catholic but converted to Islam.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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