Ubaydullah Hussain, the self-styled spokesman for a group of Islamic extremists in Norway, was acquitted by an appeals court in Oslo on Monday of charges he encouraged terrorist acts. He was also let off with a 60-day jail term for making threats and spreading hate.
Prosecutors had claimed Hussain incited terror and deserved harsher punishment for his threats. They sought a combined sentence of at least 10 months in jail for Hussain, but lost.
The case has been considered important as a matter of principle in the ongoing legal interpretations of freedom of expression. Hussain, age 29, has denied that messages he published on social media in which he hailed various terrorist attacks violated the law.
Prosecutors had combined two cases after Hussain was acquitted of inciting terror by a lower court last fall. His various comments praising, for example, the hatcheting of a British soldier on the streets of London, were judged to be within the limits allowed under Norway’s law guaranteeing freedom of expression.
Dagbladet.no reported that prosecutors also lost in their attempt to toughen Hussain’s prison term of just 60 days in another case in which he was found guilty of making threats against journalists, a court official and for spreading hate. Prosecutors initially had sought 120 days but 60 were suspended and he also got credit for 53 days when he sat in custody in 2012. That left him facing only seven new days in jail. Prosecutors thought that was too mild and sought a combined prison term in both cases of 16 months, six of them suspended.
They lost on both counts, and now may appeal to the Supreme Court. Hussain’s defense attorney John Christian Elden told Dagbladet it was “gratifying” that the prosecutors’ first appeal was rejected and that the court unanimously determined that Hussain’s “unpopular” opinions were allowed, because “it is a strength in a democracy and for the rule of law that we shall and must protect.”