Norway holds Muslim cleric for 4 weeks after Italy trial

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — An Iraqi-born Muslim cleric has been ordered held in custody for four weeks after he was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Italy for terror offenses.

The Oslo District Court said Wednesday there is a risk that Mullah Krekar could flee.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK said an Italian extradition request is expected soon.

Krekar, who earlier refused to travel to Italy, fearing extradition to Iraq, was Monday found guilty in Bolzano of attempting to overthrow the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and create an Islamic caliphate.

"I have no ties to terror. ... This is a political case," Krekar said upon arriving at the court in Norway, calling the Italian case "fake."

Prime Minister Erna Solberg told the VG newspaper on Wednesday that the reason for the arrest is so that Krekar can be sent out of the country.

"Italian authorities have requested Krekar's arrest with the intention to have him extradited to Italy," Solberg was quoted as saying.

In 2015, European authorities arrested 15 Iraqi-Kurdish nationals involved in the Rawti Shax network, of which Krekar is the alleged leader, on terrorism-related charges.

Italian prosecutors who spearheded the probe say Rawti Shax recruited foreign terrorist fighters to be sent to Iraq and Syria and provided logistical and financial support.

A refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan who came to Norway in 1991, the 63-year-old Mullah Krekar, who was born Najm al-Din Faraj Ahmad, has several convictions in Norway, including for threatening Prime Minister Solberg. He also praised the 2015 extremist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

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.

Norwegian courts have ruled in favor of his extradition and the government has given him travel documents so he can travel to Italy, escorted by Norwegian police. According to his lawyer, Brynjar Meiling, Krekar lives legally in Norway and should not be extradited because of fears for his life.