An Oslo judge has ordered Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to bombing Norway’s government headquarters on Friday and then slaughtering at least 86 members of the Labour Party’s youth organization AUF in a massacre at their summer camp, to be held in prison for at least eight weeks while police continue to investigate the terrorism charges against him. Breivik must spend at least four of the eight weeks in total isolation.
The Oslo judge’s remand custody order is just the first step in what likely will be a lengthy incarceration of Breivik, a self-professed right-wing extremist who has admitted to the bombing and the massacre but does not believe he should be punished for his acts. Rather, according to Oslo City Court Judge Kim Heger, Breivik has said under questioning that he was trying to save both Norway and western Europe from takeover by muslims.
‘Sending a deadly signal’
He said the goal of his attacks, which have left at least 93 persons dead and scores more wounded and traumatized, was “to send a strong signal to the people” and cause “the greatest possible loss” to the Labour Party, to cut off the party’s recruitment efforts.
He claimed under questioning that the Labour Party “has let down the country and the people. They paid the price (on Friday).”
Judge Heger said the court determined that it was not necessary to discuss the defendant’s motive any further.
Avoided giving him a platform
Monday’s custody hearing was closed to the press. The police had requested that it be held behind closed doors and the judge approved the request, to avoid giving Breivik a platform and, according the Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), to prevent him from sending any signals to possible allies. The official reason, according to Irene Ram of the courthouse, was tied to security concerns and for the ongoing police investigation into the attacks and how they were carried out.
The closed hearing was also an illustration of a tradition of journalistic restraint in Norway, and was applauded by media professor Tore Slaatta at the University of Oslo. “Openness is an important principle, but this is not the day to ride on principles,” Slaatta told the website for Norway’s National Journalists’ Union NJ, journalisten.no.
“Right now it’s more important to see the realities here, that Breivik hsa a plan where he wants to continue to put himself forward as being clear and strong,” Slaatta said. “He shouldn’t be given an opportunity to do that. In this case it’s worse to let him have control, than to move away from our principles on openness.”
NRK reported that Breivik had wanted to wear some sort of military uniform to his court hearing on Monday, but wasn’t allowed to do so.
Rowdy crowd outside the courthouse
While the hearing was closed, it attracted a large gathering of media representatives and spectators outside the courthouse, which is located two blocks from the site of Friday’s bombings that heavily damaged Norway’s government complex and killed at least seven people. The crowd was rowdy, and angry.
One person shouted at Breivik’s defense attorney, Geir Lippestad, that he should tell his client “that he can burn in hell.” Another asked Lippestad “how can you defend him?” Lippestad was clearly uncomfortable as he arrived at the courthouse, according to NRK.
Norway has no death penalty so Breivik faces Norway’s maximum prison term of 21 years, but he may also be sentenced to what’s called “forvaring,” or protective custody, which can keep him locked up for the rest of his life. Forvaring is used in cases of particularly heinous crimes or when the defendant is psychologically unstable.
Breivik’s defense attorney, who said he took on the case because it’s an important democratic principle to have the right to a fair trial, already has called for a medical examination of Breivik and questioned whether he’s mentally fit to stand trial. Prosecutor Christian Hatlo said Breivik would be examined by two different court-appointed psychiatrists.
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