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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 23:13 GMT
Oslo court frees Kurdish mullah
Mullah Krekar
Mullah Krekar says he no longer has a formal role in Ansar al-Islam
A Kurdish mullah has been released from custody in Norway, where police were probing his alleged conspiracy in the murders of political rivals in Iraq.

Mullah Krekar, head of the militant Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam, was released from Oslo prison on Tuesday.

He had been held since early January after he was charged last December with plotting the killing of Kurdish rivals.

But some witness accounts which led to his detention were gained by the rival party through torture, reports say.

'Weakened suspicions'

Norwegian prosecutors had sought to keep the mullah 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.

"Mullah Krekar was released because new elements in the investigation weakened suspicions against him," Brynjar Meling, Mullah Krekar's lawyer, told AFP news agency.

Another member of the defence team told Norwegian news agency NTB that he understood key Kurd witnesses had been questioned again when not supervised by the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan - and had claimed to have been tortured into making claims against Mullah Krekar.

But Mr Meling said his client's release did not mean Norwegian police had dropped their investigation.

"I am very happy, I hope that this case will end," Mullah Krekar said after he was released.

Mullah Krekar, who has had refugee status in Norway since 1991, is also fighting an expulsion order from the country.

Ansar al-Islam

The US also suspects Ansar al-Islam has links to the al-Qaeda network.

American officials say his group continues to train, and possibly deploy, suicide bombers.

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




SEE ALSO:
Iraqi Kurds count cost of attacks
02 Feb 04  |  Middle East
Norway arrests 'Iraqi militant'
02 Jan 04  |  Europe
Norway to expel Mullah Krekar
19 Feb 03  |  Europe
Dutch deport 'Islamic militant'
14 Jan 03  |  Europe


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