Breivik becoming a ‘cult figure’, lawyer warns

The lawyer who defended Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik has voiced concern that his client is becoming a cult figure, but insisted the right-wing extremist should have the right to express himself.

Breivik becoming a 'cult figure', lawyer warns
Photo: ABC Nyheter/Politet

Lawyer Geir Lippestad said the best weapon against Breivik's anti-Islamic and anti-multicultural stance was open debate.

"What is most worrying is that I keep receiving messages from around the world that Breivik is increasingly a cult figure in some circles," Lippestad wrote in his memoirs published in Norway on Thursday.

"When you see images from Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany, Greece, Sweden and other countries where he has supporters, Breivik is undoubtedly becoming a model who can influence other people to have thoughts, ideas and plans that could end up transforming young people into terrorists and not into law-abiding citizens," he wrote.

Breivik is serving a 21-year jail sentence for killing 77 people in Norway in twin attacks on July 22, 2011 that he described as "cruel but necessary".

He killed 69 people, mostly teenagers, in a gun rampage at a Labour party youth camp after setting off a massive bomb outside the main government building in Oslo, killing eight.

Breivik had laid out his Islamophobic and anti-multicultural ideology in a rambling 1,500-page online manifesto posted online shortly before the attacks.

"Upon reflection, it's not as inexplicable as it seems," Lippestad said.

"There are a lot of young people out there who are searching (for themselves). There are a lot of people out there who are angry, who feel a sense of hopelessness over their situation and who lack the basic education or the proper tools… that would normally make them sceptical to violence and totalitarian thinking," he wrote.

In his book, Lippestad said the best way to combat extremism was to have an open exchange of ideas.

Lippestad has been broadly hailed in Norway for the way in which he defended Breivik, where he argued in the name of the rule of law while keeping his distance from his client's deeds.

Breivik, held in isolation in a high security prison near Oslo, has complained several times of censorship in his communication with the outside world since all of his mail must be screened by prison officials.

The fact that Breivik is still allowed to communicate with extremist circles is "unfortunate but, alas, something we must tolerate in the name of freedom of expression," Lippestad said.

"The solution is not to ban, but to cultivate the counter-arguments that are so forceful that the extremist ideas are eroded and reduced to ashes."

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Norway to extradite Islamist preacher to Italy

Norway's government on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to extradite a fundamentalist Islamic preacher to Italy, where he has been sentenced to prison for leading a jihadist network.

Norway to extradite Islamist preacher to Italy
Controversial Norway-based fundamentalist preacher Mullah Krekar in court in Oslo last year. Photo: AFP

The 63-year-old Iraqi Kurdish man – known as Mullah Krekar, but named Najumuddin Faraj Ahmad – was arrested in July 2019 after he was convicted in his absence by an Italian court and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The Italian court found him guilty of having led a now dismantled jihadist network, Rawti Shax, a Kurdish movement with alleged links to the Islamic State group and which is suspected of planning attacks in the West.

Krekar arrived in Norway in 1991 as a refugee.

The Norwegian judiciary, including the Supreme Court, has authorised the extradition, requested by the Italian authorities in July 2019, three times and the Norwegian justice ministry on Wednesday gave final authorisation to move forward.

“The ministry considers that the conditions for an extradition to Italy are met,” Minister of Justice Monica Mæland said at a brief press conference.

Krekar now has three weeks to file an appeal to the country's King in Council, a special cabinet meeting on matters of importance where the King attends.

“There will be an appeal. I am already working on it,” Brynjar Meling, Krekar's lawyer, told AFP.

“This is a sad day for the rule of law in Norway and for justice minister Monica Mæland. It is obviously a wrong decision,” he added.

According to Meling, who is also considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, there is no evidence indicating that his client was guilty.

Extraditing Krekar would remove a thorn in Norway's side, after Olso tried to deport him since 2003, believing him to be a threat to national security.

Krekar, who founded the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, is designated a terrorist by the UN and the US and has spent several years in Norwegian prisons for issuing threats and calling for murder.

READ ALSO: Norway frees radical Islamist after Italy ends 2016 extradition bid