Norway denies kidnapping Moroccan Olympian's children

7th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Skah, winner of the 10,000-metre race at the Barcelona Games in 1992, threatened to take the Norwegian government to an international court over the affair, which has triggered a diplomatic row between Norway and Morocco.

Oslo -- Norway denied on Thursday accusations from Moroccan Olympic track champion Khalid Skah that Oslo's embassy in Rabat kidnapped his children amid a custody battle with his estranged wife.

Skah, winner of the 10,000-metre race at the Barcelona Games in 1992, threatened to take the Norwegian government to an international court over the affair, which has triggered a diplomatic row between Norway and Morocco.

"We do not think we did anything reprehensible," Norwegian foreign ministry spokesman Bjoern Jahnsen told AFP.

Norway admits giving refuge to the two children, Selma, who was born in 1993, and Tarik, born in 1996, who have dual Moroccan-Norwegian citizenship, when they showed up at the Norwegian mission in Rabat.

At their request, the embassy let them leave three days later, officials said.

"They came to our embassy because they feared for their lives. We had good reason to believe them and (Foreign Minister) Jonas Gahr Stoere himself decided that they would be welcome to the (ambassador's) residence," Jahnsen said.

"After a few days, their mother and themselves asked to leave and we did not have to ask them questions about what they counted on doing," he said.

Norway said it has lost sight of them.

Skah, who charges that his children were kidnapped on the night of July 18-19, said Wednesday he would pursue Norway in international and European courts.

The former Olympian said Tarik and Selma had lived in Rabat since 2006 and that their Norwegian mother, Anne Cecilie Hopstock, left the north African country of her own will in 2007 to live in Norway.

Skah accused the Norwegian ambassador of acting "like a real gang leader when he kidnapped my children" and arranged to have them exit Morocco "in obscure and illegal conditions."

"I am in anguish," he said. "My children now are living under the pressure of the Norwegian government."

Morocco summoned Norwegian Ambassador Bjorn Olav Blokhus on July 24 after it emerged that the two children were out of the country. Rabat charged that their departure was an "illegal exit from the territory" aided by "mafia-like networks".

According to Norwegian media reports, Hopstock was forced to lead a housebound life in Morocco. She has since filed charges against her former husband for kidnapping, violence and threats.

AFP/Expatica

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