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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Court gives Breivik custody relief

An Oslo city court ruled Monday that the young Norwegian man who’s confessed to the deadly attacks in Norway last summer must remain in custody for at least another 12 weeks, but he’ll be granted access to media in mid-December. The court will also allow controls on his communication to be lifted shortly after the New Year.

Oslo Judge Torkjel Nesheim ruled that ongoing restrictions on Anders Behring Breivik’s media access, correspondence and visitors were not warranted for the entirety of the next custody period of 12 weeks. Rather, Nesheim said, Breivik should be allowed access to media from December 12, while control of his correspondence can be lifted from January 9.

‘Disproportionate intervention’
Nesheim noted that Breivik has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest on July 22, when he bombed Norway’s government headquarters in Oslo and went on to carry out a massacre on the island of Utøya. A total of 77 persons were killed in the attacks that Breivik carried out. Nesheim nonetheless felt that the controls requested by police and prosecutors represented “disproportionate intervention” and he turned them down.

Nesheim said, though, that it still can’t be ruled out that Breivik had assistance from others while planning the attacks, and said Breivik has withheld information about people with whom he had contact. The court also agreed with prosecutors that there was a “real possibility” that Breivik could influence or tamper with evidence if released, and that Breivik’s crimes were “particularly harmful to society.” Therefore the court, repeatedly citing the “extraordinary nature and scope of the case,” went along with the request to continue holding Breivik in custody.

The hearing earlier in the day was open to the public for the first time since Breivik’s arrest, but no photos were allowed and any publication or broadcast of private recordings of the proceedings would be a violation of court rules as well. The judge lifted a ban on references from the hearing, however.

Breivik allowed to address the court
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Breivik spoke in a low, controlled voice and seemed to smile when allowed to address the court. He described himself as a military commander for a resistance movement and he objected to the judge’s qualifications, because he believed the judge to be supported by “multi-culturalists.” He refused to stand when the court was declared in session and had to be told to do so. He refused to leave the courtroom until the judge had left.

Breivik once again acknowledged what he did on July 22 but he does not view himself as deserving of punishment and he demanded his release from prison. He described his custody as an unacceptable method of torture. The judge interrupted him several times and explained later that he had no intention of allowing Breivik to use Monday’s hearing as a “soap box to talk about all the causes he believes in.”

When Breivik asked to directly address the survivors and families of the victims of his attacks, Judge Nesheim flatly refused. Many were in the courtroom and others in adjacent courtrooms, watching the proceedings via live video link. Several told NRK and other media afterwards that while they had dreaded seeing Breivik again, they viewed Monday’s open hearing as an opportunity to move on in their grieving and healing processes.

One young woman who survived the massacre on Utøya told NRK she felt better after the hearing, after seeing Breivik in a new setting and clearly under Norway’s strictest form of arrest. Added another who had decided to attend Monday’s hearing: “I just felt this was something I needed to do.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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