Anti-abortion activists in 'Scream' link

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The Independent Online
OSLO - Norwegian anti-abortion activists yesterday hinted that they stole one of the world's most famous paintings, The Scream, by Edvard Munch. Thieves snatched the painting from the National Gallery on Saturday, the same day as the opening ceremony of the Lillehammer Olympics, and art experts have speculated it could be a publicity stunt.

Boerre Knudsen, a former priest and staunch opponent of liberal Scandinavian abortion laws, said the painting could possibly be recovered if a controversial anti-abortion film - The Silent Scream - was shown on national televison (NRK). 'I have been thinking about this. If for instance NRK showed The Silent Scream for the whole nation, then The Scream will also have been returned,' Mr Knudsen said.

But he declined to confirm whether the painting, probably Norway's most valuable, was stolen by anti-abortion activists.

Nor would he guarantee its return. 'We cannot be too open about this. We have sent a signal and we want this signal to be understood, but we have to be a bit cryptic,' Mr Knudsen said. Asked whether he would have been willing to steal The Scream in order to promote his anti-abortion views, he answered: 'Yes, absolutely'.

A local radio station yesterday received a fax which shows a woman's fist squeezing a screaming foetus. In the background appears to be a female version of The Scream with long plaits. 'Which is of greater value: a child or a painting?' the anonymous fax said in English and Norwegian.

Early on Saturday a man climbed into the National Gallery in central Oslo while his accomplice steadied the ladder. They smashed a window, grabbed the 1893 painting of a face wide- mouthed in terror, and disappeared. The operation, which took less than a minute, was filmed by remote-controlled video cameras.

Norwegian police, who had just heard the radio interview with Mr Knudsen, said they would carry out further investigations before making any direct comment. 'He (Knudsen) expressed interesting views. But I noted that he gave no clear answer to any of the questions he was asked,' said Leif Lier, who heads the investigation.

But Mr Lier would not rule out questioning Mr Knudsen and Ludvig Nessa, also a former church minister and anti-abortion activist. Mr Knudsen and Mr Nessa have previously used imitations of Munch's The Scream in their anti-abortion campaign.

The two former priests have frequently toured Norway with foetus-sized dolls covered in ketchup. Both lost their jobs with Norway's state Lutheran Church after refusing to carry out their obligations in protest against Norwegian abortion laws. Norway allows women abortion on demand until the 12th week of pregnancy.

Norway recently sent home 12 American anti-abortion activists, suspecting they were planning demonstrations at the Lillehammer Olympics.

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