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Norway says NBC's 'The Wanted' is 'superficial'

The first episode tracked an alleged terrorist living there. He had already been ordered expelled, and Norway and Iraq are in talks.

July 22, 2009|Matea Gold

NEW YORK — Norwegian officials said Tuesday that an NBC program about an alleged terrorist living freely in that country has not changed the government's position on the situation, calling the show "superficial."

Before Monday's premiere of "The Wanted," an unorthodox news series that tracks down alleged terrorists and war criminals who have evaded prosecution, one of the show's executive producers suggested the program had triggered a reaction in Norway.

"This show has been a catalyst for change in governments in a lot of cases," producer Charlie Ebersol told "Hardball's" Chris Matthews.

Ebersol then noted that the Norwegian foreign minister said Monday that Norway is in direct negotiations with Iraq about the extradition of Mullah Krekar, founder of the extremist group Ansar al Islam.

"They've vowed to deport him back to Iraq, where he can face justice for crimes including killing hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans and Europeans and targeting American civilians," Ebersol said.

Krekar's presence in Norway was the focus of Monday's episode of "The Wanted," which has drawn criticism from media ethicists for its cinematic flourishes. (Its style did not appear to resonate with the audience. Monday's episode garnered fewer than 3 million viewers, making it one of the lowest-rated shows of the night on broadcast television.)

But Norwegian officials said that the country's stance on Krekar has not changed as a result of the show, which "deals with a serious matter in a superficial manner," according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ministry officials said the Norwegian government has been in contact with Iraqi authorities for some time about Krekar, whom Iraq seeks to prosecute for the attacks carried out by his group.

The Norwegian Supreme Court has ordered Krekar expelled from the country, but Norwegian officials said international law prohibits them from extraditing him until they are convinced he will not be tortured or executed.

That remains the case even after Monday's episode of "The Wanted," in which journalist Adam Ciralsky teamed up with former Special Forces members and a top war crimes prosecutor to find Krekar and confront Norwegian authorities about why he remains in their country. In the show, the team obtained a document from a Kurdish counterterrorism official promising that Krekar would not be mistreated if he were handed over.

The Norwegians said the document was insufficient to meet their obligations under international law.

"The document does not provide any diplomatic guarantee against abuse or against the implementation of a death sentence against Mullah Krekar, and it does therefore not change the conditions for the return of Mullah Krekar to Iraq," the ministry said in a statement.

"The Wanted" will air Thursday in Norway, where Krekar's presence has long been a hot-button political issue. On Monday, a Norwegian television network tracked down Foreign Affairs Minister Jonas Gahr Store at his vacation cabin in southern Norway to press him about the issue.

Store told the network that Norway will deport Krekar, a statement that NBC pounced on as evidence that the Norwegians were now taking action.

But a spokesman for the ministry said Store did not say anything new.

"The Foreign Minister has only reiterated Norway's long-standing position on the return of Mullah Krekar: He will be expelled from Norway, in accordance with the expulsion order against him," said Bjorn S. Jahnsen, the ministry's head of communications. "The expulsion will take place as soon as the necessary conditions are met. These include credible and effective guarantees against execution, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment."

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matea.gold@latimes.com

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