The Case of Sheikh Ali Salman [Bahrain]
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The Oslo Magistrate’s Court sentenced three persons to prison for assaulting and racially abusing two Norwegian nationals of Kurdish origin. The Oslo Magistrate’s Court found that sufficient evidence had been presented to determine the defendants had acted on the basis of racist attitudes and that such racist hate speech was not protected under the Norwegian Constitution. Following the assault two Norwegian nationals, X and Z, and one British national, Y, were convicted of aggravated violence motivated by racism; Y was additionally convicted of shouting racist hate speech. X was sentenced to 120 days’ imprisonment, Y to 75 and Z to 60 days’ imprisonment. This decision indicates the limits of hate speech under Norwegian law and provides an example of what constitutes racially aggravated assault.
X, Y, and Z had been drinking at various bars in the city center of Oslo. On their way home in the early hours of the morning, they encountered two Norwegian nationals of Kurdish origin, also on their way home after a night out. X, Y and Z assaulted the two, shouting, “Fucking Muslims, you don’t have anything to do here” and “Go back fucking terrorists”. The victims were beaten, kicked and had glasses, ashtrays and chairs from a nearby bar thrown at them. After the incident, the three men left in a taxi with their female friends. They were arrested the following morning and charged with assault and aggravated assault (paragraphs 228 and 229 of the Norwegian Penal Code). Y was additionally charged with hate speech, under Paragraph 135(a) of the Norwegian Penal Code, for having expressed public contempt for individuals on the basis of their religion, skin color, national or ethnic origin by having repeatedly shouted “Fucking Muslims, you don’t have anything to do here” and “Go back fucking terrorists”.
At trial, X and Z alleged that they had been provoked by the victims who had made comments to their female friends and that what followed had been a fight between equals. X pleaded guilty to one of the charges and Z pleaded not guilty to all charges. Y, the British national, did not appear in court. In their testimony, both X and Z strenuously denied that they were part of a neo-Nazi and right-wing extremist environment.
Two witnesses testified that the defendants had been the aggressors and that the victims had appeared only to defend themselves against a violent assault. The victims testified that they had heard racist comments from both the Norwegian defendants and their British friend in the course of the incident, including shouts of “Fucking Muslims, you don’t have anything to do here” and “Go back fucking terrorists.” According to the victims, X was the most active in the violent assault against them, and they also identified him as the individual who had thrown the glass at one of the victims.
Another witness, a former member of Norwegian neo-Nazi and right-wing extremist groups, testified that she recognized X as a neo-Nazi. The court was also presented with pictures found on X and Z’s mobile phones, taken on the evening preceding the assault, showing X, Y and Z making Nazi salutes and posing with Nazi regalia and symbols in X’s apartment. The defendants’ mobile phones also contained images with slogans such as “British White And Proud Of It”, “100 % 100 % proud”, “Kick Islam out of Norway”, and pictures of a nuclear bomb with the slogan “the only cure for Islam.” The court was also presented with text messages exchanged between Y and X in which they had used numerical codes associated with neo-Nazis, such as 88 for “Heil Hitler.” Messages found on X’s mobile phone also indicated that he regularly introduced mobile text messages with the Nazi greeting “Sieg Heil”, and that he had been to a neo-Nazi concert in London.
The Oslo Magistrate’s Court found the defendants guilty on all charges. X, who according to the victims’ testimonies had been the more aggressive and violent of the three, was sentenced to 120 days’ imprisonment, while Y and Z were sentenced to 75 and 60 days’ imprisonment respectively. The court found that the violent assault against the two Kurdish Muslim victims had been committed under aggravating circumstances in that it was both unprovoked and motivated by racism. With regard to the racist hate speech charges under Paragraph 135(a) of the Penal Code, the court found Y guilty of racist hate speech motivated by the victims’ non-Norwegian ethnicity as well as their Muslim background. The court found that the racist hate speech used by Y had meant to imply that the victims were “terrorists” on account of their ethnic and religious backgrounds, and that they ought therefore not to be present in a public street or in the country. The court found that such racist hate speech was not protected under the Norwegian Constitution.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This decision indicates the limits of hate speech under Norwegian law and an example of what established racially aggravated assault.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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