Government keen to contain Krekar

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Norway’s conservative government coalition is searching for ways to restrict the movements of Islamic cleric Mullah Krekar when he’s released from prison later this month. If the government can’t eventually deport him, “we’ll be remembered as those who made the most noise but didn’t deliver,” fears one of its own politicians.

Mullah Krekar pleading his case before reporters in Oslo last year. PHOTO: Nina Berglund

Mullah Krekar at the press conference in 2010 when he lodged threats against Conservative politician Erna Solberg that eventually landed him in jail. Solberg is now Norway’s prime minister and her government is carrying on the struggle, led by Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, to send Krekar out of the country. PHOTO: Nina Berglund

Jan Arild Ellingsen is just one member of the conservative Progress Party now caught in the same dilemma that confounded its predecessors in government. The party now shares government power with the Conservatives and suddenly needs to follow through on years of political rhetoric over Krekar, a former refugee who emerged as a guerrilla leader and ultimately was jailed for making threats. Krekar is due to be released from prison on January 24, and momentum is growing to have him immediately placed at a locked facility for rejected asylum seekers due to be sent out of the country.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday that Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, who hails from the Progress Party, is feverishly seeking ways to prevent Krekar from becoming a free man. Progress Party officials, led by Siv Jensen, harshly criticized the former left-center government for failing to deport or at least detain Krekar. Now it’s Anundsen’s job to do so, and both he, Jensen and other party colleagues are finding that reigning in Krekar is easier said than done. Krekar’s longtime defense attorney Brynjar Meling will continue to fight any attempts at either detainment or deportation.

Since Krekar has been declared a threat to national security, the government may be able to confine him by using a law that allows foreigners to be arrested and confined if they “impose a threat against fundamental national interests.” Law professor Terje Einarsen at the University of Bergen told Aftenposten that he believes that law may be applied in Krekar’s case.

The government may also declare that Krekar needs close police supervision because his own life has been threatened. The police, who report to the justice minister, may be able to etablish a legitimate need to know where Krekar is at any given time.

“We wouldn’t be able to hold Krekar for an extended period of time,” conceded the Progress Party’s deputy leader, Per Sandberg, to Aftenposten. “But I think holding him for a few months is absolutely possible.”

In the meantime, the government will continue to find a way to send him back to Northern Iraq, something that’s been impossible with no guarantee from the authorities there that he’ll avoid the death penalty. There’s broad political agreement in Norway to deport Krekar, but the left-center parties that failed to do so now seem to enjoy seeing the Progress and Conservative parties struggle with the same issues they did.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund