Krekar held in custody, faces extradition

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A Norwegian court has ordered Islamic cleric Mullah Krekar to be held in custody for at least four weeks, pending extradition to Italy. Italian officials confirmed on Wednesday that they now want Norway to extradite Krekar, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg said nothing stands in the way of granting it.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Wednesday that Italy’s justice minister will send a formal extradition request within the EU’s standard 40 days of his arrest in Oslo Monday night. The arrest also was made at Italy’s request following Krekar’s conviction on charges he’s part of a terrorist network.

No final verdict needed for extradition
Solberg, who has been among the targets of Krekar’s threats over the years, claims Norway can send him to Italy even though Krekar immediately appealed his conviction earlier this week. An Italian court sentenced him on Monday to 12 years in prison in Italy for planning terrorism.

“Krekar can be delivered to Italian authorities without a final verdict in his case,” Solberg told newspaper VG. “An extradition request from Italy will be handled in accordance with standard procedure. That means that if the (Norwegian) courts believe the requirements for extradition have been met, the justice ministry, and the King at a Council of State, will decide whether the extradition request will be carried out.”

There’s little doubt that the Norwegian government will be more than glad to send off Krekar, who’s stirred up trouble for years after first coming to Norway as a refugee from Northern Iraq. Solberg was nonethless careful to express any opinions about Krekar, telling VG that it’s up to the courts to determine whether Norway should go along with Italy’s formal extradition request when it comes.

“I have no foundation for evaluating these questions,” said Solberg, whose impartiality could in be questioned after Krekar threatened her during a meeting with foreign correspondents in Oslo in 2010. She was not yet prime minister at the time, but had earlier been the government minister in charge of the residence status for Krekar, when he was declared a threat to national security.

Waving off ‘false charges’
Krekar arrived for his custody hearing in Oslo in apparently good humour, smiling and waving, and telling reporters in Norwegian (on earlier occasions he has insisted on speaking only Arabic) “Hi, hi, here’s Mullah Krekar again. I’m 63 years old now and this is the 63rd time I’ve come to court in your democratic country. Italy says Mullah Krekar has a terrorist organization, but I don’t belong to any terror organization or any other group.”

Krekar described the current case against him as “political,” and like his defense attorney, suggested he’s been detained on trumped-up charges that are part of an effort by the Norwegian government to finally get rid of him. “This is a political case,” he said. “I have no contact with Italy.”

Krekar has earlier been hit with a deportation order but it’s never been carried out because he could only be sent to his homeland, Iraq, which won’t meet Norwegian demands for  guarantee that he not be executed.

“I don’t know why anyone is afraid of me,” Krekar told reporters. “I have been here (in Norway) for 28 years, I’m no threat to national security.” He repeated earlier claims, however, that “Islam is not like other religions. We also have a political program, based on Sharia law. I think Islam will come to Norway whether you like it or not. It will come.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund