Norway: Lack of justice for the attempted murder of PEN International Vice President William Nygaard

Originally published by PEN International | Photo: Eirik Solheim (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“PEN International stands with its Vice President William Nygaard, who over 30 years ago nearly paid the ultimate price for his unwavering commitment to freedom of expression and to publishing. That the case regarding his attempted murder was dismissed by the Norwegian judicial authorities is of the utmost concern. All those responsible for the appalling attempt on Nygaard’s life must be brought to account.” Burhan Sonmez, PEN International president.

April 11, 2024 – PEN International joins PEN Norway in expressing profound disappointment and concern over the decision by the Oslo District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the case regarding the attempted murder of prominent Norwegian publisher, PEN International Vice President, and former president of PEN Norway, William Nygaard. PEN International renews its call for justice for the heinous attack against Nygaard. All those responsible must be held accountable.

On April 9, 2024, the Oslo District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case regarding the attempted murder of William Nygaard. On October 11, 1993, Nygaard, then publishing director at Aschehoug, one of Norway’s largest publishing houses, was shot three times and seriously injured outside his house in Oslo. He spent months in hospital.

William Nygaard quickly linked the shooting with his support for writer Salman Rushdie and Aschehoug’s publication in Norwegian of Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses. Yet it took five years for the Norwegian police to acknowledge a connection between the attempted murder of Nygaard and the fatwa issued in 1989 by Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini against Rushdie, the book, and his publishers. Without anyone being named as a suspect or charged with the attack against Nygaard, the case was dropped in 2007.

Norway’s special investigation unit, Kripos, reopened the case in 2009 following the publication of Who shot William Nygaard?, by author and journalist Odd Isungset. In October 2018, two days before the expiration of the statute of limitation, Kripos charged two individuals with Nygaard’s attempted murder. The investigation continued until September 2023, when Kripos submitted the case to the Oslo District Attorney’s Office, suggesting dismissal due to insufficient evidence.

William Nygaard’s legal team said they would appeal against the decision to close the case. PEN Norway has previously called for an independent public inquiry into the handling of the Nygaard case by the police.

PEN International renews its call for justice and accountability. Those who sought to murder William Nygaard must not be allowed to act with impunity.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: