UPDATED: Norway’s single most controversial refugee, Mullah Krekar, will soon be released from the prison where he’s been serving time after threatening the lives of three Kurds and Conservative politician Erna Solberg, who’s now Norway’s prime minister. The government vows to step up efforts to deport him, while his brother reportedly is trying to arrange his safe return to Kurdistan.
Krekar was sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison in December 2012 and has had to serve the entire prison term. He applied for release on probation after having served two-thirds of his sentence, which is often granted to convicts, but Krekar’s application was turned down. He’s mostly been serving his time at a prison in Kongsvinger that also houses many other foreign criminals.
Krekar, whose original name is Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, came to Norway as a refugee from Northern Iraq in 1991. He was a member of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan and soon started traveling back to Iraq, even though that violated the terms of his asylum. He became leader of a guerrilla group known as Ansar al-Islam in 2001, which has been defined as a terrorist organization by several countries including the US.
Ansar al-Islam, with Krekar as its leader, reportedly carried out several massacres and terrorist acts directed at the Kurdish government, especially the largest Kurdish political party PUK. Local officials still claim Krekar was responsible for the violence and have demanded he be extradited back to Northern Iraq.
While Norwegian officials have been keen to deport Krekar, they’ve been unable to send him back to Iraq. Norwegian law prevents them from sending any criminals to a country where they may face a death penalty, and the Norwegians haven’t been able to extract promises from authorities in Northern Iraq that Krekar would not be executed.
Norway’s current conservative government will now be put to the test as it tries to carry out campaign promises to deport him, while newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that Krekar’s brother is negotiating his return to Kurdistan. Aftenposten cited recent Kurdish media reports of the negotiations with Kurdistan’s democratic party KDP, in which Krekar’s brother Khalid Ranjdar was quoted as saying Krekar was considering a return to Kurdistan if he could avoid criminal charges there. Krekar’s own Norwegian lawyer, Brynjar Meling, claimed he was unaware of any such negotiations.
It was Krekar’s stated support for terrorists including Osama bin Laden and his habit of regularly issuing what Norwegian prosecutors viewed as threats that landed him in legal trouble in Norway. His current prison term resulted in part from threats he made at a meeting with foreign correspondents in Oslo in 2010. He was acquitted of charges, though, that he had urged others to carry out terrorist acts.
Meling told NRK that Krekar will, upon release from prison, return to his home and family “and continue with what he’d been doing before he was arrested and what he’s continued to do in prison, that is studying and researching issues within Islam.” Meling said Krekar will face no restrictions, “and he can more or less carry on his activities along the same lines as others.”
Prime Minister Erna Solberg had no comment on Krekar’s upcoming release, set for January 24. Norway’s police intelligence unit continues to urge his deportation after declaring him a threat to national security.