Krekar agrees to remain in prison

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Mullah Krekar, the Islamic cleric who’s been under Norwegian protection for more than 20 years, has agreed to remain in prison for at least another eight weeks pending appeal of his recent conviction for making death threats. He’s using the time to write a book.

Mullah Krekar has been in the news, and been a problem for Norwegian authorities, for years. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

Krekar has been a thorn in the side of Norwegian authorities since he won asylum in Norway in the early 1990s. Even though he claimed to have fled northern Iraq, he violated the terms of his asylum several times to travel back to Iraq, where he led a guerrilla group that’s been branded as a terrorist organization. He won approval to bring family members from Iraq to Norway, but then proceeded to constantly criticize the Norwegian government and even lodge threats against top government officials. He finally was deemed a threat to national security in Norway, but has fought every deportation attempt to send him back to Iraq, successfully arguing that he may be executed by Iraqi authorities. Norwegian authorities can’t deport anyone to a country where they’d face a death sentence.

Another threat against, among others, top Norwegian politician Erna Solberg combined with his online activity finally resulted in a conviction and five-year prison term issued in late March. He initially was released, after he’d appealed his conviction, but police arrested him the next day after they determined he’d made new threats over the Internet, including one against former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. He’s been in custody ever since.

Prosecutor Marit Bakkevik told newspaper Aftenposten that his appeals trial is likely to be heard in October, when both prosecutors and Krekar’s defense counsel would first be available for a new meeting in court. Norway’s police intelligence unit PST wants to keep Krekar in custody and one of Krekar’s defense attorneys, Arvid Sjødin, said Krekar had agreed not to contest the request to extend his varetektsfengsling (remand custody).

“The possibilities of winning release were so small that Krekar accepts continued custody without meeting in court,” Sjødin told Aftenposten. His custody hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday May 23.

Sjødin said Krekar was keeping busy in prison with various projects and work on a book. Sjødin noted, however, that Krekar has no Internet access while in prison.

There’s been some concern that Krekar’s imprisonment may raise the terror threat against Norway. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported last week that an Islamic extremist in the UK, Anjem Choudary, has urged Muslims to kidnap Norwegians overseas and use them as hostages to negotiate for Krekar’s release.

Norwegian officials including Justice Minister Grete Faremo denounced such threats and PST said they were aware of them, but had no further comment.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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