Fewer letters are arriving at his prison and he was no longer the top story in Norwegian media on Tuesday, when his latest court appearance was overshadowed by a much bigger police corruption case going on in Oslo. Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik is simply not commanding the interest he once did, not least among other right-wing extremists.
Researcher Johannes Due Enstad at the University of Oslo has been monitoring interest in Breivik, who killed 77 people in twin attacks on July 22, 2011. Enstad has studied, for example, how often Breivik is mentioned within right-wing extremist circles in Europe, especially in Russia. Enstad told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that interest was higher in 2011 and 2012 is now “clearly” in decline.
“On the websites where there was activity following the July 22 attacks, there’s hardly any activity at all any longer,” Enstad told NRK. He said that Russia was the only country in Europe where right-wing extremists openly and publicly supported Breivik, after he’d claimed that he attacked Norway’s Labour Party-led government at the time and the party itself because they allowed too many immigrants into the country. Russian extremists, Enstad said, portrayed Breivik as a hero and used him in propaganda for their own campaigns.
“But now, also in Russia, there’s very little interest in Breivik,” Enstad said, “and you don’t find any active propaganda activity at all.” NRK reported that Breivik’s own attorney said he’s getting less mail (which remains under strict control) while media coverage of the court case that was beginning this week has been dampened.
When the appeals case involving complaints over Breivik’s prison conditions began on Tuesday, the now 37-year-old mass murderer once again flashed a Nazi salute in the makeshift courtroom at the high-security prison where he’s being held in Skien. Not even pictures of that topped the websites of Norwegian media outlets, which are dominated this week by another court case involving corruption and drug charges brought against a high-profile Oslo police officer and one of his informants. NRK1, for example, also opted to switch away from the opening of the Breivik trial to give the corruption case live TV coverage.
Breivik, currently serving a sentence that can be extended for life, was predictably reprimanded for the salute by one of the judges in the case that’s an appeal of a lower court ruling that Breivik’s prison conditions violated his human rights. Even though Breivik has three cells at his disposal and access to TV, books, newspapers and training equipment, he has sued over his isolation, also from other prisoners. Prison authorities contend the isolation has been necessary given the high security required around someone who carefully planned such deadly attacks and killed so many people. State attorneys used opening arguments on Tuesday to describe how dangerous Breivik can still be.
Breivik, who has never expressed any regret for his attacks, is also seeking more freedom to communicate with the outside world, and less control on his correspondence. Prison authorities counter that he is allowed more “professional” visitors now, like carefully screened prison volunteers, clergy and his lawyers. When he entered the courtroom, set up in the gymnasium of the prison, Breivik was not handcuffed.
Breivik made an issue during his initial trial that he was mentally fit to stand trial. He resisted any attempt to declare him psychologically unfit, but now his lawyer is expect to argue that his client is “mentally vulnerable” and can suffer from his prison regime. Prosecutors, meanwhile, noted that a prison sentence is supposed to be a form of punishment, and there’s nothing wrong if Breivik experiences it as such. The trial is expected to run into next week.