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Iraqi-born cleric pleads not guilty in Norway to encouraging suicide bombings

Mullah Krekar, the founder of the Iraqi Kurdish Islamist group Ansar Al Islam [CFR backgrounder], pleaded not guilty before a Norwegian district court on Wednesday to charges of condoning suicide bombings and making death threats against politicians. The prosecutor in the case, Marit Bakkevig, declared that Krekar, who has been living in Norway since 1991, broke Norwegian anti-terror laws by making threats that were intended to incite fear in society [AFP report]. In 2009, Krekar had proclaimed that if he were deported to Iraq and killed, Norwegian officials would pay with their lives. Another charge against Krekar stemmed from his appearance on the NBC News Program "The Wanted" [youtube footage] in 2009, in which Krekar encouraged suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq and said America deserved the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Krekar's lawyer proclaimed that his client stood by what he said, but that this is a test case [AP report] for drawing the line between Norway's terror laws and freedom of speech. Krekar's trial is expected to last three weeks. If found guilty of violating Norway's anti-terror laws, Krekar could face fifteen years in prison.

Norway's terror laws have sparked controversy recently. Last week, JURIST guest columnist Per Lægreid of the University of Bergen argued [JURIST op-ed] that Norway's terror laws should not be extended to individuals planning terrorist attacks, and when choosing between preventing terror and protecting civil liberties, the latter should prevail. In January, a Norwegian court issued the first conviction under Norway's anti-terror law [JURIST report], convicting two men who were accused of planning an attack on a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

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