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Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi Kurd, has been living as a political refugee in Norway since 1991
(and has a Norwegian passport). He is accused of participating in terrorist activities, although
the nature of the charges remain unclear and the evidence has proven insufficient for
. Mullah Krekar, or Farai Ahmad Najmuddin, is one of the founders of
the Islamic organisation Ansar al-Islam (originally Jund al-Islam - Soldiers of Islam). He was
born in the Iraqi province of Al-Sulaymaniyah, studied Islamic Law in Pakistan and allegedlyfollowed the teachings of Abdullah Azzam, who was also the mentor of Osama bin Laden
Pakistan, Krekar became involved in the Afghan resistance movement and went to fight
against the Russians in Chechnya. He was cited saying that Osama Bin Laden was the crown
of Islam. Ansar al-Islam operated in the north of Iraq and is named in relation to attacks on
Kurdish politicians and holds the reins of a religious government in some villages in the
north of Iraq.According the United States, Ansar al-Islam fighters give shelter to high ranking al-Qaida
members and have experimented with chemical weapons. Just before the US and UK-led
attack on Iraq, the United States saw Ansar al-Islam as a threat to Kurdish parties in Northern
. In February 2003, Ansar al-Islam was added to the United Nations list of terrorist
Ansar al-Islam called for a holy war in the region, but it is unclear if Krekar supported this
position. Some sources say he supported the radical fractions, others say that he was more of
a compromise figure in the organisation. According to Michiel Leezenberg (lecturer in
Islamic Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam) Krekar was a preacher and not a military
leader and he argues there is little proof for the accusations about his presumed participation
in terrorist activities.
When Krekar was arrested at Schipol airport in September 2002, the Dutch authorities
claimed the arrest took place on grounds of a drugs related extradition request by Jordan.
However, the events that followed revealed that the US suspected Krekar of "terrorist
activities" as well as relations with al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, although he does not
appear on the FBI's 'most wanted' list. On the day of Krekar's arrest, a Dutch Ministry of
Justice spokesman claimed that it was related to immigration offences and that "several
countries" were discussing his case with the Dutch secret service (which, it was later
revealed, provided the "evidence" for this case).
The events leading up to the arrest
Krekar was put under house arrest in Norway at the end of August 2002 because of alleged
recruitment activities for a cell of Ansar al-Islam in Norway. Preliminary investigations were
initiated against him on grounds of terrorism and abuse of his asylum status. In face of
prosecution in Norway, Krekar left the country for Sweden, but Sweden told him to leave so
Krekar took a flight to Iran to travel on to northern Iraq. The Iranian authorities arrested and
imprisoned him in Teheran, despite that fact that he was neither convicted of any crimes, nor
had he encountered problems with Iranian authorities in the past. Iran used to support Ansar
Al-Islam, but according to the Economist, the Iranian secret services have increased their
cooperation with 'Western' (American) intelligence agencies.
The events that followed imply at least some form of cooperation between the different
governments involved, albeit a confusing one:
On 12 September 2002
- the Iranian authorities expel Krekar back to Norway via Amsterdam where he is arrested
and imprisoned at the high security prison of Vught.
- Norway notifies the Dutch Embassy in Teheran of Krekar's presumed terrorist activities,
- the military police at Schiphol airport is notified by the Dutch Embassy in Teheran that
Krekar is flying into Amsterdam with Iran Air on flight 765 and tell Dutch police that the
Norwegian authorities have revoked Krekar's asylum status.
- Jordan files an extradition request with the Dutch department of Interpol, upon which
Interpol orders his arrest. The original extradition order reads: "criminal conspiracy to
commit crimes against individuals". One day later, the extradition request is changed to be
only drugs related, presumably to give a legal basis to the extradition (see below).
On 13 September 2002
- the Norwegian Ambassador to Holland visits Krekar at Schiphol airport, where he tells the
military police that Krekar still has a legal status in Norway.
After the Ambassador's visit, the military police book a flight for Krekar from Amsterdam to
Oslo for Saturday 14 September 2002. The same day, whilst imprisoned in Vught high
security prison, Krekar is interrogated by FBI personnel from both, the American Embassy in
Brussels and the FBI offices in Washington.
- Krekar remains imprisoned in Vught awaiting trial for Jordan's extradition request, now
changed to charges of drugs trafficking.
Although Jordan changed its extradition order for Krekar to drugs related crimes, a letter
from the Dutch secret services to the Dutch Ministry of Justice was leaked to the public in
January 2003 and it became clear that Jordan was also looking for Krekar in relation to a
bomb attack on the chief of the Jordanian secret service Department for Counter Terrorism
on 28 February 2002. This information however, was not given to the judges or the defence
team, who were led to believe that the extradition request was based entirely on drug related
crimes. As Holland does not have an extradition treaty with Jordan, so only people suspected
of drugs related crimes can theoretically be extradited because both countries signed the 1988
United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic In Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances, which allows for people to be extradited in relation to drugs crimes. But in
Holland, no extraditions under this Convention have taken place and nor have any
extraditions to Jordan taken place because of concerns over human rights abuses.
"Suspect" deported during proceedings - lawyers arrested
Throughout the proceedings, Krekar's defence lawyer V. Koppe suspected other motives
were behind the arrest. On 28 November 2002, in a letter to the Ministry of Justice, he
demanded to be informed about the precise nature of the extradition request. JPH Donner,
Minister of Justice, replied there were no charges other than the drugs related ones, but the
lawyers initiated proceedings against the minister to clarify if J P H Donner had misled the
courts. On 9 January, the judges ruled that the extradition dossier did not support the lawyer's
suspicions. This gave the green light for the extradition proceedings against Krekar to start on
25 January at the court in Haarlem. However, on 12 January, before the trial had started, J P
H Donner personally issued an order for Krekar to be deported to Norway and claimed there
was an agreement that Krekar would be arrested on arrival. The Dutch Ministry of Justice
issued a press release on 14 January saying that, confronted with the probability that the
extradition request would not be granted (by that time it became clear that there was no
evidence supporting the Jordanian claims of drugs trafficking) and that Krekar would
therefore be released from detention. The Ministry had decided they would deport him to
Norway, where the authorities had promised to arrest him on arrival. The Norwegian
authorities would later deny that there had ever been such a deal. In effect, the Dutch
Ministry of Justice decided Krekar's fate (prison and deportation) without any convictions
against him and based on accusations of "terrorist activities" for which there remains no
Krekar's lawyer was not told of the deportation order but went straight to the airport when he
heard about it. There he joined Krekar in a police van. Together they challenged the
deportation order and lodged an asylum claim with the Dutch authorities on grounds of likely
prosecution in Norway and consequent extradition to northern Iraq. His asylum request was
rejected within 20 minutes and without proper proceedings being followed. The police
ordered Koppe, the lawyer, to leave the van as they were about to drive Krekar to the plane (a
private Lear jet aircraft used for deportations). Koppe refused and was then arrested together
with his colleague, M. Strooij. Krekar's lawyer said that his client's deportation was a
disguised extradition. "Holland cannot deport someone to a country where a criminal
investigation is going on and where his residence status might be taken from him", he said.
Krekar was flown to Norway.
On 25 January 2003, the extradition case against Krekar fell because he was not there to be
extradited. Krekar's lawyers appealed to the Court of Justice in Amsterdam against the
deportation and the rejection of Krekar's asylum request. This hearing went ahead,
considering Krekar's deportation and right to return to Holland, as well as the irregularities
surrounding the Dutch Minister's handling of the case - including his failure to notify the
prosecution about the deportation he ordered. The "real" reason behind the extradition request
became known when a letter, dated from 13 September 2002, from the Dutch Intelligence
Service (AIVD) to the Minister of Justice, was leaked to the public on 18 January 2003. A
bomb attack on the chief of the Jordanian secret service Department for Counter Terrorism
on 28 February 2002, during which two by-standers were killed, was cited. This information
was neither presented to the Court of Justice in Haarlem, which dealt with the extradition
request, nor to Krekar's lawyers. If the Court of Justice had known about it Krekar would
have been released immediately because it would have rendered the 1988 UN Convention on
Drugs redundant as a legal basis for extradition, and there is no other legal basis in Holland
for extraditions to Jordan. The full extent of the Dutch ministers collusion in the case as well
as the involvement of the secret services was thereby revealed (evidence from the secret
services is not admissible in court).
Justice minister intevenes
The Minister's handling of the case, the deportation and the withholding of evidence, has
received widespread criticism in the media. It is argued he perverted the course of justice and
commentators accuse him of hypocrisy, In particular recalling his behaviour during another
'terrorist' trial where the court released four al-Qaida suspects because the evidence against
them was provided by the Dutch secret service - the Minister called for a change in law to
allow for secret service evidence to be allowed in court for criminal prosecutions. However,
in Krekar's case, he withheld this evidence. Ironically, Krekar's lawyers agree with Donner
that in this case, the AIVD (Dutch Intelligence Service) evidence should have been given to
the court to consider, because it would have shed light on the treatment that would have
awaited their client in Jordan. They argue that as this was not a criminal prosecution, the
evidence would have only served to provided a basis for the judges to be able to make an
informed decision on extradition.
Why was Krekar arrested?
A number of motives are thought to lie behind the initial arrest of Krekar.
More questions have arisen than have been answered: How did Jordan know that Krekar was
in Holland and why did Norway notify the Dutch authorities, presumably asking for him to
be arrested? Why did the Dutch Embassy in Teheran falsely claim that Krekar's legal status
in Norway was revoked? Did Jordan's extradition request on the basis of drugs crimes relate
to the lack of a legal basis for the extradition as well as suiting Holland's attempts to prove to
the "international community" that it is not 'weak' on drugs policy? Anonymous sources from
within the Dutch Ministry of Justice say that it is peculiar that an extradition order from
Jordan is considered at all by the Ministry of Justice. Holland has never extradited people to
Jordan because of their "lack of trust in the Jordanian legal system".
The U.S. involvement
It was reported that Donner had consulted the U.S. authorities before Krekar was arrested and
before he issued the deportation order. Although the US never filed an extradition request
they were named as partners in the proceedings. The lack of an official extradition request
caused speculation that they did not have enough evidence. Krekar touched on other reasons
when he commented on Norwegian television after his deportation from Holland that he has
worked with the CIA. FBI officers interviewed him in prison in Holland because of a
Jordanian extradition request seeming to confirm J P H Donner's claim that the United States
showed a lot of interest in Krekar. One of the federal officers working for the Department of
Justice in Washington, who also interrogated Krekar in Vught, acknowledged that the US did
not have any proof of possible terrorist activities involving Mullah Krekar. After Krekar's
deportation to Norway Washington also claimed that they were not looking for him in
relation to criminal activities.
According to Krekar, during his interrogation in Vught, the FBI asked him about Osama Bin
Laden and Saddam Hussein and were mainly interested in any possible contacts between the
two. Krekar also claimed that the US put pressure on him because he and his group refused to
cooperate with them in the planned attack on Iraq.
When Krekar arrived at Oslo's airport on 13 January 2003, there were no police waiting for
him but a lot of journalists - as he had acquired public status in Norway after being accused
of terrorist activities and links to al-Qaida. The Norwegian authorities denied that there was
any deal with the Dutch authorities. The Norwegian Ambassador said in the press that
Norway had time and again made clear that there would be no arrest.
In a debate in the Dutch parliament the Minister of Justice had to admit that there had been
no guarantee that Norway would arrest Krekar on arrival in Oslo. Lasse Qvigstad, head of the
Oslo Prosecution Authority, prevented his arrest as there was no evidence of criminal
conduct. Qvigstad has apparently prevented charges against Krekar for some time now while
the Norwegian secret service unsuccessfully sought prosecutions.
According to Norwegian television, the United States started to panic when Krekar was not
arrested in Norway and were considering an extradition order. U.S. Secretary of State, Colin
Powell, talked with his Norwegian colleague Jan Petersen (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and
Powell proclaimed that the US did not want people suspected of terrorist activities "going out
and taking part in new actions".
In the Dutch hearing on Krekar's deportation and asylum request, the Court of Justice ruled
on 1 February 2003 that the deportation of Krekar had been unlawful and that the asylum
request which Mullah Krekar made together with his lawyers on the last moment at the
airport was justified and should have been taken into account and not rejected within twenty
minutes. In his decision, the judge queried why, after four months of imprisonment in a high
security prison, Krekar and his lawyers had not been notified about the deportation as well as
wondering why the Minister of Justice personally ordered the deportation and why the case
had not followed the normal rules and regulations. However, the Judge ruled out the
possibility of Krekar being returned to Holland because there was no reason to believe
Norway was unsafe.
Back in Norway
On 19 February 2003, the Norwegian Minister of Interior Affairs (Local Governance) Erna
Solberg decided to extradite Mullah Krekar to northern Iraq. The Minister said that Krekar
was a threat to Norway's national security and that his refugee status should be revoked, even
though a month earlier, the Norwegian public prosecutor saw no legal basis for his arrest.
There was to be an investigation into the alleged abuse of the asylum system, according to
the Norwegian authorities, Krekar had regularly visited northern Iraq after 1991. The
Norwegian authorities also continued proceedings against Krekar for alleged financing of
guerrilla activities as well as the formation of a terrorist group. Krekar was charged with
breaking § 104a in the Norwegian Penal Code, which covers organisations which threaten or
disturb the security of the country.
Brynjar Meling, Krekar's lawyer in Norway, appealed against the decision to extradite him to
northern Iraq and the Dutch lawyers launched another appeal against Krekar's deportation to
Norway, claiming that Krekar's life was in danger if he was extradited and demanded his
return to Holland. On 21 and 22 of February 2003, members of the Dutch Immigration and
Naturalisation Service (IND) visited Krekar in Norway concerning his rejected asylum
request. On 26 February, the appeal was sent to the Court of Justice in Amsterdam. On 9
April this year, the judge ruled that Mullah Krekar's asylum application was unlawfully
rejected by the Dutch authorities and that the state was obliged to look at his substantive
claim. The Ministry of Justice concluded from the ruling that Krekar would have to be
allowed to return to Holland to process his application.
In Norway, Mullah Krekar is under investigation and Jordan has lodged an extradition
requested on the same grounds that it did to Holland. On 15 March 2003, Krekar was told
that he had to leave Norway within three weeks. The government revoked his asylum status.
According to the Minister of Interior Affairs, Erna Solberg, there are reasons to believe that
Krekar, as leader of Ansar al-Islam, has relations with al-Qaida. Erna Solberg claimed that
Krekar's role as political, religious and military leader would attract terrorism to Norway. She
also thought that his life would not be in danger in northern Iraq. However, during the USAUK
invasion of Iraq most of the members of Ansar al-Islam were killed.
On 19 March 2003 Krekar gave an interview to the Dutch news programme, Netwerk, in
which he stated that he had his troops ready and that they were far more dangerous then
Palestinian suicide bombers. On 20 March the war in Iraq started. The interview was partly
reproduced by the Norwegian television and interpreted as breaking the terrorist statute §
147a in the Norwegian Penal Code. The Oslo Remand Court consequently ruled on 21 March
2003 that he be held for four weeks on remand to await trial. Krekar won his appeal to the
Intermediate Court and therefore the Økokrim (police branch dealing with economic crimes)
appealed to the Supreme Court, based on the Intermediate Court's legal interpretation of §
On 9 April 2003, the Norwegian Supreme Court overturned charges brought against him in
an earlier judgement by the Oslo Remand Court. The Court said that there was still no
evidence to convict Krekar of any terrorist offences.
As of June this year, the Ministry was still working on the extradition case. The Minister,
Erna Solberg, told Aftenposten on 7 June that the Ministry was working on "putting the
extradition decision into effect". A number of lawyers have argued against this, on the
grounds that the Kurdistan Democratic Party is now in control of Northern Iraq, and that Iraq
is not (yet) a state in it own right, so that extradition to Iraq would in effect be extradition to
the US occupation force, and the US has the death penalty.
Extradition to Jordan has been set aside (the request was far too thin) and extradition to Iraq
is an uphill case. It is predicted that Krekar will remain in Norway.