Former Norwegian PM held at immigration over Iranian visa

Former Norwegian PM detained at US airport
Former Norwegian PM detained at US airport

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    Former Norwegian PM detained at US airport

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Former Norwegian PM detained at US airport 02:45

Story highlights

  • Former European leader attended a conference in Iran in 2014
  • Bondevik was heading to the National Prayer Breakfast when he was detained

(CNN)If you're the former leader of a European nation, the president of a major human rights organization and the owner of a diplomatic passport, you're not likely to encounter a long wait at airport immigration.

But on January 31, Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former Prime Minister of Norway, encountered more than just a lengthy queue.
Bondevik told CNN's "Connect the World" he was interrogated by officials at Washington's Dulles International Airport because he had an Iranian visa in his diplomatic passport.
"When they found the Iranian visa, where I was in December 2014, they said that there was a ... regulation that with such a visa I had to be flagged up," Bondevik said.
After the former European leader detailed his travel history -- he was in Tehran speaking at an anti-extremism conference -- Bondevik said he "assumed and presumed that they would let me go immediately."
But instead, Bondevik said he was questioned for over an hour.
"Did they really believe that I presented a problem or threat to the US? I expected they would show more flexibility and wisdom," he said.
Bondevik said he was held along with migrants from the Middle East and Africa who were also facing additional screening. Although Bondevik was eventually released, he said the atmosphere surrounding President Donald Trump's travel ban had shaken his core values.
Bondevik told CNN's Becky Anderson he disagrees with the ban entirely, calling it "a contradiction" to his "view on human dignity."
"I really dislike that he is treating people from some Muslim countries as a group and not individuals," he said.
Bondevik, who heads the human rights organization Oslo Center, said the incident speaks to a wider issue of concern brought on by the President's first actions in office.
It's not just the ban that's worrying Bondevik.
"I also must say that I dislike very much his approach to other international leaders -- the Prime Minister of Australia, the President of Mexico ... and how he is acting in the international community."
He said many others, including Norway were concerned.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order that banned citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from traveling to America. The ban also suspended the refugee program for four months, and stopped the admission of all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
On Friday, the executive order was temporarily halted after a federal judge suspended key parts of the order nationwide. As of Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had denied the US government's emergency request to resume the ban and had ordered both sides to submit their arguments for or against it before a final ruling.