Norway to extradite Islamist preacher to Italy

Norway's government on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to extradite a fundamentalist Islamic preacher to Italy, where he has been sentenced to prison for leading a jihadist network.

Norway to extradite Islamist preacher to Italy
Controversial Norway-based fundamentalist preacher Mullah Krekar in court in Oslo last year. Photo: AFP

The 63-year-old Iraqi Kurdish man – known as Mullah Krekar, but named Najumuddin Faraj Ahmad – was arrested in July 2019 after he was convicted in his absence by an Italian court and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The Italian court found him guilty of having led a now dismantled jihadist network, Rawti Shax, a Kurdish movement with alleged links to the Islamic State group and which is suspected of planning attacks in the West.

Krekar arrived in Norway in 1991 as a refugee.

The Norwegian judiciary, including the Supreme Court, has authorised the extradition, requested by the Italian authorities in July 2019, three times and the Norwegian justice ministry on Wednesday gave final authorisation to move forward.

“The ministry considers that the conditions for an extradition to Italy are met,” Minister of Justice Monica Mæland said at a brief press conference.

Krekar now has three weeks to file an appeal to the country's King in Council, a special cabinet meeting on matters of importance where the King attends.

“There will be an appeal. I am already working on it,” Brynjar Meling, Krekar's lawyer, told AFP.

“This is a sad day for the rule of law in Norway and for justice minister Monica Mæland. It is obviously a wrong decision,” he added.

According to Meling, who is also considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, there is no evidence indicating that his client was guilty.

Extraditing Krekar would remove a thorn in Norway's side, after Olso tried to deport him since 2003, believing him to be a threat to national security.

Krekar, who founded the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, is designated a terrorist by the UN and the US and has spent several years in Norwegian prisons for issuing threats and calling for murder.

READ ALSO: Norway frees radical Islamist after Italy ends 2016 extradition bid

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Norway frees radical Islamist as Italy ends extradition bid

Italy has cancelled a request for the extradition from Norway of controversial Iraqi Kurdish fundamentalist preacher Mullah Krekar, the Norwegian prosecution agency said on Wednesday, ordering his immediate release.

Norway frees radical Islamist as Italy ends extradition bid
Mullah Krekar said it was "great" to be a free man again. Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix
The prosecution agency did not provide any explanation for Italy's move, saying simply that the Italian justice ministry had informed its Norwegian counterpart in a letter that the request would be “withdrawn.”
A refugee in Norway since 1991 but not a citizen, 60-year-old Krekar — whose real name is Najumuddin Ahmad Faraj — is suspected by Italian police of leading the Rawti Shax, a network with alleged links to the Islamic State group and which is suspected of planning attacks in the West.
Norwegian officials had perceived the extradition request as a blessing for their country, which has been struggling for more than 10 years to rid itself of a man seen as troublesome.
Considered a threat to national security and featuring on UN and US terror lists, Krekar has been at risk of deportation since 2003.
While courts have upheld the ruling, Norwegian law bars him from being deported to Iraq, because he risks the death penalty there.
Having spent several years in a Norwegian prison for threats and inciting violent behaviour, he was again imprisoned on November 23 after exhausting all the legal options to prevent his extradition to Italy.
Krekar's lawyer, Brynjar Meling, hailed the withdrawal of the extradition request as “a victory of the law”.
“This shows that it is not possible to conceal an expulsion behind a request for extradition. This decision is a defeat for those who tried,” he told Norwegian media.
Krekar was released from custody on Wednesday.
“I had no idea I was getting out. I had received no information,” he told daily VG, saying it was “great” to be free.