An appeals court in Oslo has found Ubaydullah Hussain, a self-proclaimed Islamist, guilty of supporting the terrorist organization ISIL and recruiting “vulnerable souls” for it. The court upheld Hussain’s earlier sentence to prison for nine years, in a case that involves the first indictment under a law forbidding both membership in and recruiting for a terrorist group.
Hussain’s defense attorney Ulrik Sverdrup-Thygeson Jr, quickly claimed his client would appeal the conviction to the Supreme Court (Høyesterett). Hussain faces the same sentence handed down by the Oslo City Court (Oslo Tingrett) last April but Friday’s court ruling is more extensive than the Oslo court’s. Hussain continues to deny that he carried out any recruiting for IS. He also denies any membership or participation in ISIL.
“Hussain is disappointed, of course,” Sverdrup-Thygeson said after conveying the sentence to Hussain, who’s being held in custody at a prison in the northern city of Bodø. “He has never viewed himself as a participant in IS (ISIL) and is therefore disappointed over being convicted for that.”
Hussain, now age 32, nonetheless became a familiar figure on the streets of Oslo as a missionary of sorts for the fundamentalist Islam he supported. He also spoke at various demonstrations, also in front of the former US Embassy, but testified in court that he regretted much of what he’d said about the terror group earlier. Hussain also spoke, however, in a documentary aired on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) last year, about how he dreamed of crushing all the statues around Oslo’s City Hall and hearing Muslim prayers stream out of its tower instead of chimes. He has also been arrested and charged several times with making threats.
His conviction last spring was dubbed “historic,” and state prosecutor Frederik G Ranke said Friday that he was “extremely satisfied” that it was upheld, even strengthened. “We believe Hussain played a major role as facilitator, spokesman and recruiter for IS from Norway,” Ranke told NRK.
Hussain, former spokesman for the Islamist group Profetens Ummah, was initially convicted and sentenced in April for supporting IS and recruiting a now-20-year-old Norwegian man whom he’d driven to an airport in Sweden. The young man was stopped and prevented from boarding the flight, with police suspecting he was bound for Syria to fight for IS. He was also convicted by the Oslo City Court last spring for his involvement with IS and did not appeal.
Hussain was further convicted on various other charges, including provision of financial and material support for IS. The Oslo court, however, had acquitted him of also recruiting a Norwegian convert to Islam, Thom Alexander Karlsen, who was killed in Syria just months after joining IS.
Earlier partial acquittal reversed
The appeals court, however, also convicted Hussain for recruiting Karlsen, “with knowledge of the gruesome acts foreign fighters in ISIL were part of, and knowing that the danger of him dying himself was great.”
NRK reported that Syria trips had fatal consequences for several of those involved with Hussain: Four of eight men for which Hussain has been indicted for either recruiting or “helping” have been killed in battle for IS.
Prosecutor Ranke still claims Hussain was IS’ “spokesman in Norway,” telling NRK that Hussain “made arrangements” for those willing to travel to Syria, “he has recruited vulnerable souls who have traveled to Syria to join ISIL, he has supported people in ISIL with money and goods and he has helped Norwegian foreign fighters. In total it has been quite an extensive operation.”
The court ruling against Hussain stated that around 90 foreign fighters traveled from Norway to Syria, of whom 30 have returned home. More than 20 are confirmed dead. Most traveled from Norway in 2014 and joined ISIL.