Minister: Norway to Extradite Radical Islamic Cleric if Italy Convicts Him

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Olav Nesvold/AP

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norway’s justice minister said Saturday that an Iraqi-born cleric suspected of enticing recruits to fight in Iraq and Syria will be extradited if a court in Italy convicts him.

The Muslim cleric, Najmaddin Faraj Ahmad, is scheduled to go on trial in Italy Wednesday without him being physically present in court, Norwegian daily newspaper Nettavisen reported. Ahmad is known as Mullah Krekar in Norway, where he has lived since 1991.

Italian prosecutors allege that Krekar is behind Rawti Shax, a European network aimed at violently overthrowing the government in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and replacing it with a radical caliphate. Rawti Shax ultimately was to join the Islamic State group, Nettavisen said.

The prosecutors claim Rawti Shax built up a network of operative cells “to carry out violent actions on European soil or against Western interests to create fear in the population or put pressure on governments and international organizations,” according to the newspaper.

Krekar has denied the allegations.

Norwegian Justice Minister Per-Willy Amundsen told Nettavisen that Krekar should be sent to Italy, if he is found guilty.

“If he is sentenced in Italy, he will serve his time in Italy. I’ll take care of that,” Amundsen was quoted as saying.

Krekar came to Norway as a refugee in 1991. Norwegian officials have long wanted to get him out of the country.

Krekar founded the now-defunct Ansar al-Islam insurgent group of Sunni Kurds, which aimed to install an Islamic caliphate in Iraqi Kurdistan. It reportedly merged with the Islamic State group in 2014.

The 61-year-old cleric was convicted of threatening Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, making other death threats and praising the 2015 extremist slayings of cartoonists at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Krekar tried to fight a previous extradition request from Italy, which courts in Norway approved before the request was withdrawn.

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