COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — An Iraqi-born cleric can be extradited to Italy, which suspects him of enticing recruits to fight in Iraq and Syria, a Norwegian court said Friday.
Italy says Najmaddin Faraj Ahmad — known as Mullah Krekar — is behind Rawti Shax, a European-wide network aimed at violently overthrowing the government in the Iraqi-Kurdish region and replacing it with a radical caliphate.
Italian authorities, who have taken a lead in the investigation of Krekar and his group, claim he had developed a network of followers who communicated via online chats. Krekar, who holds a Norwegian residence permit, was arrested in November, following an Italian request.
Eurojust, the European Union's judicial cooperation agency, said 13 people have been arrested in Italy, Britain and Norway in connection with the Krekar case. Italian authorities have called the operation "the most important" in Europe in 20 years.
Norway's Borgarting appeal court said Friday it had rejected Krekar's appeal and that "a fast and complete clarification of the case" backed extradition.
Krekar's lawyer, Brynjar Meling, told local media that he would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
It is up to Norway's justice ministry to handle the deportation of Krekar, who came to the country as a refugee in 1991.
He was the founder of 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
Krekar, 60, has previously been convicted of threatening Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, making other death threats and for praising the slaying of cartoonists at the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in 2015.