November 23, 2016 / 11:59 AM / 3 years ago

Norwegian court allows extradition of Islamist militant suspect to Italy

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the extradition to Italy of an Islamist suspected of plotting attacks, leaving the final decision to the government on whether to hand him over.

Mullah Krekar gestures at Oslo's District Court, Norway, November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Cornelius Poppe/NTB scanpix

Mullah Krekar, the one-time leader of the Ansar al-Islam militant group, was arrested in November last year as part of a series of arrests across Europe, and Italian prosecutors later asked for his extradition.

Italian authorities said at the time that at least 15 suspected members of a militant Islamist group were arrested in six European countries, accused of planning attacks in Europe and the Middle East.

Krekar’s attorney, Brynjar Meling, has said his client saw no grounds for the accusations and that it was “a rehash of old stuff”.

Krekar, who went to Norway as a refugee from Iraq in 1991, has been a thorn in the side of successive Norwegian governments. Though deemed a threat to national security, he was not deported to Iraq because authorities there could not guarantee he would not be executed.

His arrest took place in prison, where he was already serving an 18-month sentence for making death threats against a Kurdish man and giving an interview in which he encouraged other people to commit criminal acts.

His fate now lies with the cabinet of Prime Minister Erna Solberg, against whom Krekar was convicted of making death threats in 2012. She told reporters on Wednesday she had “no feelings” about the latest development in the case.

“The justice system has treated the question about Mullah Krekar. This is not a political question,” Solberg said.

Justice Minister Anders Anundsen said in an emailed statement to Reuters: “I am happy that the judicial process of the case is concluded. It has taken a long time. The ministry will now, as fast as possible, decide whether the extradition request will be granted or not.”

Anundsen represents Norway’s populist Progress Party, which has previously campaigned to expel Krekar and is one of two parties in the minority coalition government.

Reporting by Camilla Knudsen and Stine Jacobsen, writing by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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