Reaction has been swift and strong to remarks terror defendant Anders Behring Breivik has been making in court this week, when he bragged about his deadly attacks on July 22 and ended Wednesday’s session by saying Norway’s maximum prison term of 21 years is “pathetic.” He thinks he should either be released or be sentenced to death.
Norway has no death penalty but Breivik seems to think Norway’s legal punishments are lenient compared to those of other countries. Breivik, grilled by prosecutors in court again on Wednesday, had said earlier he didn’t fear prison. Suddenly he said he “wouldn’t respect” just a 21-year term.
“Do you think it would be correct of Norway to introduce a death penalty in connection with this case?” asked prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh.
“It would be correct in many ways,” Breivik answered. “If you evaluate this case, there should only be two logical outcomes. I view 21 years in prison as a pathetic punishment.”
Asked whether he’d like to be sentenced to death, he said: “I don’t want to be sentenced to death, but I would have respected that verdict. I won’t accept 21 years, that’s ridiculous.”
He went on to say that “it’s sad (Thomas) Indrebø was fired,” referring to the lay judge who was disqualified on Tuesday because he had commented in social media right after Breivik’s attacks on July 22 last year that a death penalty would have been “the only fair” sentence for Breivik. “He seemed like a person with a sensible attitude,” Breivik said.
His remarks seem to illustrate his utter disdain for the Norwegian legal system, or the society and culture he also has claimed he tried to protect through his attacks. He also has offended many by making a right-wing extremist salute with clenched fist every morning. His defense attorney Geir Lippestad said he has asked his client to cut that out.
Other reactions: Outrage, resignation, roses
Meanwhile, much of his prepared address to the court on Tuesday was full of factual errors, argued several lawyers and professors in Norway, while others were alternatively outraged, resigned or simply keen on decorating Oslo with roses once again.
Among those reacting were professors at the University of Oslo and the University of Bergen, senior researchers at state statistics bureau SSB and political scientists, who claimed Breivik’s erred on several occasions. His inaccurate statements included everything from immigration statistics, which he had exaggerated, to prospects for conflicts between nationalists and internationalists.
Jan Oskar Engene of the University of Bergen, told newspaper Aftenposten that Breivik “has a conspiratorial picture of the world, where Islam is sneaking in everywhere and Muslims can’t manage to live in peace with others. It’s just part of his rhetoric that he uses to justify his attacks.”
‘Biased and incorrect’
Kari Vogt, a historian and expert on Islam at the University of Oslo, said Breivik’s claim that most Muslims are not peaceful is “highly biased and incorrect.” Muslims, she said, are a widely diverse group with many different interpretations of Islam, just like Christians have widely different interpretations and practices of Christianity.
Many right-wing extremists are now trying to distance themselves from Breivik and his actions, much like many Muslims constantly feel a need to distance themselves from Islamic terrorists. If anything, some note, the extremists may now have had a taste of their own medicine. Those who long have stereotyped Muslims may worry Breivik’s deeds will hurt their cause. They don’t want to be associated with the type of violence Breivik unleashed or viewed as terrorists any more than immigrants and Muslims do.
Breivik’s statements that other European leaders are recognizing the challenges of immigration while Norway “is going the opposite way” was deemed inaccurate as well. The government, for example, refuses to stop the deportation of hundreds of asylbarna (children of rejected refugees in Norway) and many view Norway’s immigration policies as restrictive, not permissive as Breivik claims.
Samis offended along with the rest
There have also been angry reactions to Breivik’s description of the Labour Party’s youth organization AUF as one that “indoctrinates” its members. Breivik also compared it to Hitler’s youth group, prompting some survivors of his attacks and parents of his victims to leave the courtroom.
Also objecting to Breivik’s testimony were some leaders of Norway’s indigenous Sami people in the far north. Breivik said he considers white “ethnic Norwegians” as the country’s native population, much to the offense of the Sami.
Others are simply ignoring Breivik and his trial. While many of Breivik’s survivors and victims’ families feel a need to follow it every step of the way over the next nine weeks, one survivor of his massacre on the island of Utøya told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) she’s pointedly ignoring the trial. Hildegunn Fallang from Gran in Hadeland was among those who fled the massacre by swimming in the chilly waters of the Tyrifjord from the island to the mainland.
“I think he has already taken up too much of my time,” Fallang, age 21, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I don’t feel a need to be in the courtroom or see him or hear his testimony. I’ve moved so far beyond this now that I don’t think it would do me any good.”
Others are showing up in court every day, while still others are leaving roses and small memorials to Breivik’s victims around Oslo. Helle Gannestad, who formulated last July’s poignant appeal for love instead evil, has now embarked on a campaign of glede (joy).
“It’s important to find some joy every day,” Gannestad, a member of AUF that was targeted last summer, told newspaper Dagsavisen. “We can’t go around for 10 weeks (while the trial runs) and feel depressed. And it shouldn’t be wrong to feel happy when something as difficult as this is going on. We are in many ways lucky, and should think about that, too.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
Please support our stories by clicking on the “Donate” button now: