A stunned former prime minister of Norway complained that he was caught up in the maw of Donald Trump’s controversial executive order and detained this week by border agents at Washington’s Dulles International Airport because he visited Iran in 2014.
Kjell Magne Bondevik said that after he landed at Dulles on Tuesday he was herded into a room with a group of travelers from the Middle East and Africa. He was ordered to wait for 40 minutes, then questioned for another 20 after officials spotted a travel stamp on his passport revealing that he had flown to Iran three years ago, reported WJLA-TV. The passport also clearly identified him as a former prime minister of Norway, he said.
Bondevik had flown to Washington to attend the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday.
“There should be no reason to fear a former prime minister who has been on official visits to the country several times before,” he told Norway’s TV2.
He also explained to WJLA: “It should be enough when they found that I have a diplomatic passport [as 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.”
He added: “I was surprised, and I was provoked. What will the reputation of the U.S. be if this happens not only to me, but also to other international leaders?”
Bondevik, who is currently president of the human rights organization The Oslo Center, had traveled to Iran to speak at a human rights conference three years ago. He served as Norway’s prime minister from 1997 to 2000 and 2001 to 2005.
Trump signed a controversial executive order last Friday banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations, including Iran, that sparked airport demonstrations across the nation involving thousands of protesters.
Bondevik said Dulles officials insisted he hadn’t been detained because of Trump’s order, but because of a 2015 law signed by Barack Obama placing some restrictions on travelers in the wake of terror attacks in Paris. But Bondevik told WJLA that his office had contacted the U.S. Embassy in Norway before his trip and he was assured that he would have no problem.
A federal judge in Brooklyn issued a stay against Trump’s order on Saturday, the first full day it was in effect, and a number of other judges soon followed suit. Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered customs and border protection officials to allow any detained legal permanent residents to have access to attorneys. But lawyers said customs officials at Dulles ignored the order Sunday. Six members of Congress came to Dulles to challenge authorities over their apparent refusal to recognize the authority of the court.
Late Wednesday, Virginia asked a federal judge to compel Trump, border agents and top government officials to show why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to obey a lawful court order.
A watchdog agency at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security finally said Wednesday it would review the implementation of Trump’s order in “response to congressional request and whistleblower and hotline complaints,” the department’s Office of Inspector General said in a statement, Reuters reported.
Bondevik told Norwegian television he is worried about the Trump administration’s tactics. “I understand the fear of terror, but one should not treat entire ethnic groups in such a way,” he said. “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.”