Sami activist sets up camp outside Norway parliament to protest wind turbines

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) -An Indigenous Sami activist set up camp outside the Norwegian parliament on Monday to protest against wind turbines built on land traditionally used by Sami reindeer herders, saying he will stay there as long as the turbines remain in place.

Norway's supreme court in October 2021 ruled that two wind farms built at Fosen in central Norway, part of Europe's largest onshore wind farm, violated Sami rights under international conventions. But the turbines remain in operation today.

The Fosen case is one of many conflicts that Norway has yet to resolve, with climate change and technology enabling mineral extraction, energy production and tourism while also threatening traditional ways of life.

The government has said that the supreme court, while ruling that the licenses of the two farms were illegal, did not give instructions on what to do next and that the conflict should be resolved through talks.

"It has been 700 days of human rights abuse and the Norwegian state has not done anything to stop it. So I have chosen to come here and set up camp until the human rights abuse stops," Sami activist Mihkkal Haetta, 22, told Reuters, dressed in a traditional gakti outfit worn inside out as a sign of protest.

"I believe that there is only one solution and that is to tear down the wind turbines at Fosen."

In February Indigenous protesters including Haetta occupied the lobby of the oil and energy ministry before police removed them.

They later occupied the entrances of 10 ministries and were joined by Greta Thunberg, who said human rights had to go hand-in-hand with climate protection and climate action.

Since the protests, the government and the reindeer-herding families affected by the Fosen wind farm have been involved in mediation to resolve the conflict but no concrete measures have been announced yet.

The reindeer herders have said the only solution to the conflict is that the turbines be torn down.

"We still hope that the mediation process will be able to lead to an amicable solution to the matter. It would be the best for all parties," Oil and Energy Minister Terje Aasland told Reuters in an emailed statement.

"It is too early to say anything concrete about when a solution might be in place, but I am focused that the mediation track can be followed as long as there is hope for a solution."

About Monday's protest, Aasland said "the right to free expression is a founding democratic right I have great respect for".

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Hugh Lawson)