Norway charges radical cleric for death threats

July 12, 2011 - 9:29 AM

OSLO, Norway (AP) — A Norwegian prosecutor has filed terror charges against an Iraqi-born cleric for threatening Norwegian politicians with death if he's deported from the Nordic country.

The indictment, obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, centers on statements that Mullah Krekar — the founder of the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam — made to various media, including American network NBC.

Norway ordered Krekar deported in 2005 after declaring him a national security threat, but the decision was suspended amid worries he would face execution or torture in Iraq.

At a news conference in June 2010, Krekar said that if he's deported to Iraq and is killed there, Norwegian officials would meet the same fate. He singled out former asylum policy minister Erna Solberg.

Prosecutor Marit Bakkevik said Krekar's statements violated Norwegian terror laws and were meant to force authorities to halt the deportation order and to instill fear in Norwegian society.

The indictment also highlights comments Krekar made to NBC's news program "The Wanted" in 2009. Krekar told the program the American people deserved the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and he condoned suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq. Bakkevik said the statements amounted to incitement of such attacks.

Krekar's defense lawyer, Brynjar Meling, told the AP that his client welcomes the opportunity to refute the charges in court. "His position is that he is not guilty on any of the charges," Meling said.

He said Krekar's statements were taken out of context and that he had been speaking in general terms about the punishment prescribed by Islam for a variety of crimes.

"He has not meant to threaten anyone. And he is not in a position to ... put any power behind any threats," Meling said.

Krekar, born Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, founded Ansar al-Islam while a refugee in Norway. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and others. It is suspected of having carried out suicide bombings against coalition forces in Iraq.

Krekar has said he no longer leads Ansar al-Islam, and denies links to al-Qaida.