|Iraqi-born cleric Mullah Krekar said Norway will "pay a heavy price" if he is deported back to Iraq [Reuters]
A Norwegian court has sentenced Mullah Krekar, the founder of a radical Iraqi Kurdish Islamist group, to five years in jail for issuing death threats against a former government minister and others.
The 55-year-old mullah, whose real name is Najmeddine Faraj Ahmad and who has lived in Norway since 1991, founded the Ansar al-Islam group.
He was found guilty on Monday of threatening the life of Erna Solberg, an ex-minister who signed his expulsion order in 2003 because he was considered a threat to national security.
"Norway will pay a heavy price for my death," he said during a meeting with international media in June 2010.
"If, for example, Erna Solberg deports me and I die as a result, she will suffer the same fate," he said in Arabic. "I don't know who will kill her: Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, my family, my children. I don't know... But she will pay the price."
The three Oslo court judges said the threat was aimed at pushing Norwegian authorities to retract the expulsion order.
Krekar, whose name is on terrorist lists drawn up by the United Nations and the United States, has avoided expulsion since the order was signed nine years ago.
Norwegian law prevents him from being deported to Iraq until his safety can be guaranteed and as long as he risks the death penalty there.
Krekar was also accused of threatening three other Kurds living in Norway who had burned pages of the Quran or insulted it in another way.
The mullah has admitted to making the statements but has claimed his words merely referred to Islamic principles.
"The court does not reject sharia but, in the context of Norwegian law, sharia does not have a place," the Oslo court said in its verdict, referring to Islamic law.
Although the court cleared Krekar of charges he had called for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq, it granted the prosecution its request that he serve five years in prison.
The defence, which had demanded Krekar's release, appealed the verdict on the spot.
While Krekar acknowledges having co-founded Ansar al-Islam, which also figures on international lists of terrorist groups, in 2001, he insists he has not led the group since 2002.