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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 17:15 GMT
Oslo court rejects mullah release
Mullah Krekar
Krekar says he no longer has a formal role in Ansar al-Islam
An Islamic militant group's founder must remain in custody while he is investigated for attempted murder, a Norwegian court has ruled.

The appeal court decision overturns an earlier ruling by a lower court to release Mullah Krekar, head of the Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam.

He was arrested at his home in Oslo in December over charges that he plotted to kill political rivals in Iraq.

The US also suspects his group has links to the al-Qaeda network.

The Kurdish mullah has repeatedly claimed he is no longer leader of Ansar al-Islam, and denies terror links.

Prosecutors had sought to keep him in detention while they investigated what they said was new evidence against him, relating to a plot to murder rivals in Iraq during 2000-2001.

Earlier in the month, the lower court ruled there was insufficient evidence to justify keeping him in custody, but ordered he remain in jail pending an appeal.

Further appeal

Overturning that decision, Oslo's Borgarting appeals court said it had reason to believe Mullah Krekar has maintained a key role in the militant group.

"Several witnesses leave the impression that suicide and bombing actions would not have been carried out without (Krekar) being made aware of it, and according to the suspect's statement to police, no-one could be punished without his approval," said the ruling.

The court also said there was a risk he might flee the country.

Mullah Krekar can appeal to the Supreme Court over the ruling, although it is not clear if he will do so.

US aircraft targeted Ansar's camps in northern Iraq during the war and US officials have linked the group to the insurgency against coalition forces occupying Iraq.

Norway is seeking to expel Mullah Krekar, who was deported from the Netherlands in January 2003.




SEE ALSO:
Oslo court cuts Krekar custody
05 Jan 04  |  Europe
Norway arrests 'Iraqi militant'
02 Jan 04  |  Europe
Norway charges suspected militant
21 Mar 03  |  Middle East
Norway to expel Mullah Krekar
19 Feb 03  |  Europe
Dutch deport 'Islamic militant'
14 Jan 03  |  Europe


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