Norway To Review Australian Broadcasting Corporation Krekar Tape

Norway to review ABC Krekar tape

Peter Wilson,
Europe correspondent
The Australian
November 16, 2007

THE Norwegian Government yesterday said it would analyse an Australian television interview with the country's most controversial refugee, Mullar Krekar, to determine if the Kurdish extremist had broken any laws.

However, officials warned it was unlikely they would be able to charge Krekar with inciting violence under current laws, which do not yet reflect the rise of Islamic terrorism or the European Union's toughened stance on preventing terrorism.

Cabinet minister in charge of immigration Bjarne Hakon Hanssen called a press conference in Oslo yesterday, just hours before the broadcast on Norwegian television of the ABC Foreign Correspondent interview in which Krekar called for attacks on Australian forces in Iraq.

A string of similarly provocative comments by Krekar, who has long advocated suicide bombing against Western forces in Iraq, have been found not to have breached Norway's laws.

Mr Hanssen, the Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, failed to bring any clarity to the legal deadlock, which has allowed Krekar to stay in Norway despite repeated deportation orders by the country's courts.

Flanked by chief bureaucrats from the foreign and justice ministries, he said he was sure Krekar's deportation to northern Iraq would happen during his tenure in office, adding that “I intend to be a minister for a very long time”.

Mr Hanssen said all relevant ministries were united in their determination that “at some time in the future he will be sent back to Iraq” but conceded his Government could not set any date for Krekar's expulsion, and did not know when laws would be enacted to restrict his movements in Norway.

The EU's convention on human rights has stopped Norway from deporting Krekar, the founder of the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group that killed ABC cameraman Paul Moran in 2003, because of fears he could face torture or the death penalty in Iraq.

Iraq and Norway both want Krekar sent home, but Mr Hanssen said the Norwegian Government could do nothing until the human rights situation in Iraq improved.

Norwegian attempts in 2003 and 2004 to charge Krekar with supporting terrorism failed, partly because some of the evidence against him was inadmissible in Norwegian courts as it had allegedly been obtained by torturing witnesses.

The US Government accuses him of running pro-al-Qa'ida websites from his Oslo apartment and claims that a group he founded sent money to terrorist organisations as late as 2005 and recruited Europeans into terrorist groups.

Oslo began work two weeks ago on a tougher penal code to bring Norway's laws on inciting violence into compliance with EU attempts to prevent terrorism.

But the tougher regime will not be introduced for some time, and will not be backdated to cover Krekar's comments.

There will be a similar delay with a new Immigration Act that includes provisions to restrict the movements of people who, like Krekar, have been legally deemed a threat to national security but cannot be deported because of the dangers they faced in their home country.

Krekar, who entered the country as a refugee in 1991 but quickly broke Norway's immigration laws by making repeated trips to his homeland, has had his Norwegian passport revoked and has been banned from working or receiving welfare benefits, but the Government does not have the right to detain him.

Labour Ministry spokeswoman Sissil Pettersen said the new immigration provisions would make it easier to monitor individuals by requiring them to live at a certain address, report regularly to police and stay away from nominated areas.

But those provisions were still working their way through parliament and were unlikely to come into force for two years.

The reforms might be sped up by tacking them on to the present immigration laws, but even then there would be no guarantee the provisions would be implemented against Krekar because any decision would be up to local police authorities.

Norwegian politicians were furious last year to find that immigration authorities had allowed Krekar's mother-in-law to join his family as a refugee in Norway, even though he was awaiting deportation and the Government had explicitly declared that no refugees should be accepted unless they had jobs and could support themselves and their families.