Norway charges former Iranian diplomat in 1993 assassination attempt

William NygaardTHE GOVERNMENT OF NORWAY has pressed charges against two men, among them a former diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Oslo, for the attempted murder of a high-profile Norwegian publisher in 1993. The case centers on an attempt against the life of William Nygaard, a Norwegian publisher and former director of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1989 Nygaard was behind the publication of the Norwegian edition of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. The bestselling novel was condemned as blasphemous by conservative Muslims, due to its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. In the spring of 1989, Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (decree) sentencing to death the novel’s author and all those who had a role in publishing the book, and urging followers of Islam to execute them at will. Nygaard began receiving threats almost immediately, and was given police protection for almost a year.

On the morning of October 11, 1993, Nygaard was shot and left for dead outside his house in the northern outskirts of Oslo. He survived after being rushed to the hospital, where he remained for several months during what became a long and painstaking period of recovery. The police was unable to find the culprits of the attempted murder, and the investigation stalled after a few years, as it was unclear whether the motives were political or personal. Nygaard consistently argued that the attempt on his life was politically motivated.

Nygaard’s claims were revived in 2018, when the Norwegian Police Service said it had pressed charges against two individuals for the attempted murder of the publisher. No information was publicized about the identities of the two suspects. However, a clue emerged when a spokeswoman for Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service said that the incident “was about more than an attack on one man” and represented “a violent attempt to shut down free speech”.

Since then there have been rumors about the identities of the two suspects. Last week, Iranian dissidents living abroad began claiming that one of the men was a Lebanese national, and the other a retired Iranian diplomat. On Friday, a report by the Norwegian Broadcasting Company stated that the Iranian former diplomat in question is Mohammad Nik-Khah. The report added that Nik-Khah served as first secretary of the Iranian embassy in Norway when Nygaard was shot, and that he now lives in Iran.

Over the weekend, a press statement issued by the Iranian embassy in Oslo confirmed that Nik-Khah served as a diplomat there in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the statement claimed that Nik-Khah had left Norway several days prior to the attempted killing of Nygaard.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 November 2021 | Research credit: LCP | Permalink

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