Judges named for terrorist’s trial

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Oslo’s city court named on Friday the two judges who will handle the trial of confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik next spring. Both said they accepted the job immediately when asked, and court administrators believe they are best suited for the task.

The terrorist's trial will take place inside Oslo Tinghuset, the city court house. PHOTO: Tingretten

Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, age 52, and Arne Lyng, age 49, will both preside over the lengthy trial due to begin on April 16. They will be joined by three lay judges, in what’s called a forsterket rett (literally, a “strengthened court”). Trials in the Oslo city court known as Tingrett normally are handled by one judge and two lay judges, the latter selected from the public at large.

Arntzen has been a judge since 2007 and previously worked as a lawyer in both the Justice Ministry and as an attorney for the government (Regjeringsadvokat, the lawyers who represent the government in civil cases). Lyng has been a city court judge for 10 years and previously worked for the financial regulatory agency Kredittilsynet and in the law firm Lyng.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Friday that court administrators conducted comprehensive checks of various judges to avoid any conflicts of interest or questions about their competence. “There were no questions about the competence of these two,” Geir Engebretsen, chief local judge, told NRK.

When asked whether it was possible to view the case, in which Breivik has confessed to the attacks that killed 77 persons, on an objective basis, Lyng said “no, we are influenced by the media coverage and by the utterly special character of the crime. On that point, we’re no different from other inhabitants of Norway.”

Arntzen added, though, that judges have professional experience in weighing what unfolds in the courtroom, and that is what will decide the verdict. “We’re approaching the job with humility, not with the thought this is going to be simple and is already decided,” she said.

The case, which will be the largest in Norway since those following World War II, is scheduled to last for 10 weeks. The courthouse is undergoing major renovations to handle the case, and proceedings will also be broadcast via a video link to other locations because of the hundreds of plaintiffs and lawyers involved and the international media interest.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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