OSLO, Norway — A Norwegian court on Friday approved an extradition request from France for a suspect linked to a terror attack in a Jewish neighborhood in Paris in 1982 that killed six people.
Friday’s ruling, which can be appealed, concerns only whether the legal grounds are met for an extradition. Once the judicial process is completed, the decision of whether or not to extradite Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed will ultimately be up to Norway’s justice ministry, or government.
Six people were killed when a group of men threw a grenade into the Jo Goldenberg restaurant and opened fire, setting off decades of legal wrangling and frustration for families of the victims.
The attack was blamed on the Abu Nidal Organization, a splinter group of the militant Palestinian Fatah group.
France has spent years pursuing Abu Zayed — one of four suspects with international arrest warrants against them — believing him to be one of the shooters.
Abu Zayed has lived in Norway since 1991 and has Norwegian citizenship, and the country has had a policy of not extraditing its nationals.
But a recently implemented deal between Norway, Iceland and the EU has ironed out the difficulties and paved the way for extradition.
“I oppose the extradition because I have nothing to do with the attack,” Abu Zayed told the Oslo court where he arrived under a police escort.
He has insisted he was in Monte Carlo at the time of the attack.
His lawyer, Ole-Martin Meland, said the French extradition request was “extremely flimsy.”
He argued that the conditions had not been met, including the absence of reciprocal extradition arrangements, Norway’s statute of limitations and the suspect’s failing health.
“We cannot deport a Norwegian citizen merely on the basis of hazy allegations,” the lawyer said.
While arguing that the legal conditions had been met, prosecutor Anne Karoline Bakken Staff highlighted a possible option for him to serve a sentence in Norway.
“I don’t like France,” the suspect said. “I don’t want to be imprisoned in France.”
The families of the victims of the attack, who have been demanding a trial for nearly four decades, have pinned their hopes on his extradition.
“It is symbolically very important,” said David Pere, a lawyer for the French Association of Victims of Terrorism.
“I expect him to be extradited,” said a lawyer for the victims’ families, Romain Boulet. “We’re very eager to hear this man’s explanations.”
In addition to Abu Zayed, France has already issued international arrest warrants for two suspects in Jordan and another in the West Bank.
Jordan has repeatedly refused to extradite the two suspects.
The affair is all the more explosive given media reports of a secret deal between French intelligence services and the Abu Nidal Organization under which the latter’s members would not be arrested if they refrained from committing further attacks on French soil.