Norway's ex-PM detained at US airport for visiting Iran in 2014

Kjell Magne Bondevik has a diplomatic passport and a valid Iranian visa

News Desk February 03, 2017
Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Norway PM and president the Oslo Centre, a human rights organisation. PHOTO: AFP

A former prime minister of Norway was detained at the Washington Dulles airport for visiting Iran three years ago.

According to The GuardianKjell Magne Bondevik, Norway’s prime minister from 1997-2000 and 2001-05, reached the United States from Europe on Tuesday, and was held for an hour following US president’s immigration order that banned people from seven countries to enter the states.

The order, which bars admission of Syrian refugees and suspends travel to the United States from Syria, Iraq, Iran and four other countries on national security grounds, has led to the detention or deportation of hundreds of people arriving at US airports.

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The ex-prime minister’s diplomatic passport had an Iranian visa as he had visited the Islamic country.

“Of course I fully understand the fear of letting terrorists come into this country,” Bondevik said in an interview. “It should be enough when they found that I have a diplomatic passport, [that I’m a] former prime minister.

“That should be enough for them to understand that I don’t represent any problem or threat to this country and [to] let me go immediately, but they didn’t.”

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Bondevik, who now heads the Oslo Centre, a human rights organisation, recounted that he was sent to a room where many travellers from Middle East and Africa were also put under detention.

The authorities made him wait for 40 minutes before his turn for the interrogation came. He was then questioned for 20 minutes as the officials kept asking about his visit to Iran that the former prime minister had taken to attend a human rights conference.

“I was surprised, and I was provoked,” he said. “What will the reputation of the US be if this happens not only to me, but also to other international leaders?”

Bondevik said he had never faced any problems while travelling to the United States until Tuesday.

He expressed his concern about the future and said: “I understand the fear of terror, but one should not treat entire ethnic groups in such a way.

“I must admit that I fear the future. There has been a lot of progress over the last 10 years, but this gives great cause for concern, in line with the authoritarian leaders we see controlling other major countries.”