Norway’s most troublesome refugee, best known as Mullah Krekar, was extradited to Italy during the night. Justice Minister Monica Mæland confirmed the extradition, which greatly upset Krekar’s longtime defense attorney.
“Krekar is no longer in Norway,” Mæland announced at a midday press conference on Thursday. She added that Krekar was “delivered to Italy,” where he was sentenced last year to 12 years in prison on terror charges.
Mæland further stressed that the extradition, which had been cleared by Norway’s Supreme Court, was recently authorized by King Harald V after years of legal battles. Since the long-sought extradition finally occurred right in the middle of the Corona virus crisis, which has hit Italy especially hard, Mæland also stressed that Italian authorities had provided assurances that Krekar would receive the help and protection to which he has a right.
The extradition comes at a time when Norwegian authorities have advised against any travel to Italy because of the potentially deadly Corona virus. Mæland claimed, however, that “we have carried out an extradition that was demanded and authorized. We believe (Krekar’s case) was thoroughly evaluated and defensibly handled.”
She said the Norwegian government had waited until Italy could provide its assurances, “and they believed it was responsible to carry it out today.”
‘Threat to national security’
Krekar, whose full name is Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, was first declared a threat to national security in Norway more than 15 years ago, not least after he threatened the life of now-Prime Minister Erna Solberg, both in the early 2000s and three years prior to her becoming prime minister. The threat against Solberg in 2010 brought demands that he be jailed, and stirred new local outrage when he was allowed to remain in Norway.
He came to Norway as a refugee nearly 30 years ago and later was allowed to bring his family to Norway as well. He ended up violating the terms of his asylum, however, by traveling back to Northern Iraq and leading a guerrilla group that the US defined as a terrorist organization.
The Islamic cleric has been in and out of court and prison since he was ultimately being sent back to Norway, mostly on charges of lodging threats against various opponents. He couldn’t be deported to his native Iraq, however, because Norwegian authorities failed to obtain assurance he would not be executed upon arrival. Norway won’t deport anyone to a country where they may be subjected to capital punishment.
‘Shameful day for Norway’
Brynjar Meling, Krekar’s longtime public defender, was clearly angered by the extradition that he failed to prevent. “They sent him out in the dark of night,” Meling fumed to state broadcaster NRK. “They didn’t even allow him to take farewell with his family, knowing full well that it’s impossible for them to go to Italy.” Krekar most recently has been held in prison again while awaiting extradition.
Meling has argued for years that Krekar has been a victim of politics, both within various Norwegian governments and with the US playing a role in urging his containment. Krekar has denied making threats, claiming instead that he simply expresses his interpretations of Islamic law. Norwegian authorities have responded that Krekar has encouraged terrorist acts and regularly threatened other Norwegian residents and citizens.
Meling claimed nonetheless that it was “a shameful day for Norway.” He had earlier said he would further appeal Krekar’s pending extradition to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. If such a complaint had been filed, Mæland had said Norwegian authorities would “of course” await its result. Krekar’s appeals hit the end of the line at the weekly Council of State on March 13, when King Harald V did not act on the last one. Mæland and the justice ministry thus moved quickly to extradite him less than two weeks later.