UPDATED: State prosecutors asked a Norwegian court on Thursday to sentence a radical Islamist who was born in Norway to at least five more months in prison. While his defense attorney cautioned against making the defendant a martyr, prosecutors argued that he has made serious threats and encouraged violence, including the proposed stoning of a lesbian author.
The prosecutors are seeing a 10-month prison term for 28-year-old Arslan Maroof (Ubaydullah) Hussain, plus another two years on probation. Three of the 10 months are a suspended sentence, however, and Hussain would receive double credit for the one month he’s already spent in custody, since he was held in isolation. That means he faces another five months if the court accepts the proposed sentence.
The prosecution claims that Hussain must serve prison time for publishing statements and making remarks that threatened two journalists, a well-known researcher, Norway’s Jewish community and Somalian author Amal Aden. The statements and remarks, argued prosecutor Carl Fredrik Fari on the last day of Hussain’s trial, created fear and can only be characterized as threats that are illegal to lodge in Norway.
Hussain has pleaded innocent to all the charges against him. “There’s no need to make a martyr … by putting someone in prison over their remarks,” his defense attorney John Christian Elden told the court in his closing arguments. Elden has been defending Hussain against five specific allegations of threats and spreading hatred.
The journalists for newspapers Aftenposten and Dagsavisen who received allegedly threatening e-mails from Hussain over stories they’d written both claimed the mails created fear, insecurity and prompted them to change their daily routines, seek anonymity and be cautious about opening their doors.
The researcher also has felt forced to seek anonymity after he felt verbally threatened by Hussain after testifying in another court case. Norwegian law provides for sharper punishment if the work of journalists or academics is hindered by the alleged threats.
Author Amal Aden did not want to testify at Hussain’s trial this week, saying she feared reprisal. In her case, Hussain had written online that she should be stoned because she is lesbian, and homosexuality, according to his interpretation of Islam, “shall be punished with death.”
Testing freedom of expression
Ervin Kohn, an active member of Oslo’s Jewish community who also is deputy leader of a Norwegian anti-racism group, did choose to testify, claiming in court that Hussain stirred fear when he wrote on Facebook that it was too bad that shots fired against the Jewish Synagogue in Oslo several years ago “didn’t hit anyone.” Kohn said that Hussain’s remarks also provoked bad memories.
“This court case offers a possibility for Norwegian society to say that ‘we don’t want this kind of garbage’ circulating in public,” Kohn said.
Hussain was grilled by the judge during his trial this week, over his failure to apologize for his remarks even though he admitted in court that he perhaps could have formulated his thoughts differently. His defense attorney argues that the case tests the judicial limits of freedom of expression, and what actually constitutes a threat.
“This case is important because it will contribute to define the difference between a threat and ‘just’ a hateful, extremist expression that can be viewed as a threat,” said Håkon Haugli, a politician for the Labour Party. The court’s verdict is expected on February 7.