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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Confessed terrorist back in court

A new custody hearing for confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik was to begin behind closed doors again on Monday, at which he reportedly wanted to make a speech. As fallout continued from the bombing and massacre he carried out in July,  air space over the prison where he’s being held was closed, and prison guards are reporting harassment from the press.

Breivik, age 32, has remained in full isolation at the Ila Prison west of Oslo since his arrest on the island of Utøya July 22, where he shot and killed 69 persons attending a Labour Party summer camp. Eight more persons were killed earlier that day when he set off a massive bomb that destroyed Norway’s government headquarters.

Under Norwegian law, police and prosecutors must continue to seek court permission to keep a defendant in isolation for more than four weeks at a time. They now are asking to keep Breivik in custody for at least eight more weeks, four of them in the maximum term allowed at a time for isolation.

Opened, then closed
The Oslo city court (tingrett) had initially decided to open Monday’s custody hearing for the first time so that Breivik’s victims, survivors and the press could attend. While many survivors and victims’ families are shunning Breivik and don’t even want to hear his name or see his photo in a newspaper, interest from the press was enormous. Around 130 journalists from both inside and outside Norway sought accreditation, according to the local professional journal Journalisten.

Police appealed the city court’s decision, however, and an appeals court reversed it, ordering the custody hearing to be closed to the public after all. While Norway prides itself on being an open society, many have applauded the court’s decision to keep Breivik from gaining the public arena he has sought after the attacks.

Breivik’s defense attorney Geir Lippestad told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)  that Breivik wanted to hold a speech during Monday’s hearing. It was unclear whether the judge would grant permission, but under the law, Breivik must be allowed to clarify his position. He has earlier shown no signs of regret for killing 77 persons in what he claimed was an attempt to launch war against the emergence of multi-cultural societies.

Helicopter scared prison guards
The prison where Breivik is being held along with two other prisons where he may eventually be moved were also granted a request to close the air space over them. Officials at the high-security Ila Prison in Bærum said they were plagued and “frightened” by a helicopter that flew in low over the prison just a week after Breivik was placed there.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that the helicopter, from a company called Heliwing, had a photographer on board that was intent on getting photos of Breivik in the exercise yard for sale to newspaper Dagbladet. While police reportedly had been alerted, prison staff had not, and they objected strongly to the helicopter circling overhead.

The air space has since been officially closed but a Heliwing spokesman said the closure likely wouldn’t prevent any escape attempt. “A helicopter pilot assisting an escape will have as little respect for the closure of air space as a a bank robber has red lights,” John-Erik Sogn of Heliwing told Aftenposten.

Prison officials have also complained that guards have been harassed by phone calls from aggressive reporters wanting to know what it’s like to deal with Breivik. One reporter reportedly called the grandmother of a guard to get his phone number, and then threatened to keep calling the grandmother when the guard refused to talk.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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