Flowers brighten dark days in court

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Everyone using the main entrance into the Oslo City Court is now met by a growing array of flowers that Norwegians have been placing in honor of the victims of last summer’s terrorist attacks. As testimony at the terrorist’s trial turned on Tuesday to autopsy reports and details of his bombing, the flowers offered a bit of beauty amidst the horror.

Norwegians have placed flowers and written messages outside the courthouse where the trial of terror defendant Anders Behring Breivik entered its seventh day on Tuesday. PHOTO: Views and News

Passersby started tying a few roses to the security fence around the courthouse the night before the trial got underway last Monday. A week later, the fences resembled a rose garden, and amongst the flowers are small notes of inspiration and courage.

That was needed by many in the courtroom as gruesome details of Anders Behring Breivik’s bombing of government headquarters, just a block behind the courthouse, continued to emerge. Attorneys questioned a security guard and police who were on duty when the bomb went off, and a bomb expert who could describe in detail the effect it had.

They told of fears that other bombs may have been planted around town, and fears there was more than one attacker. Police were given orders to shoot if suspicious persons were believed to pose a threat. Operations leader Thor Langli had just come on duty that Friday afternoon when the bomb went off, and rushed to the scene himself.

Expected more attacks
“I reported at once that this was a terrorist attack, because it was important to alert others that we could expect more attacks,” Langli testified, adding that he immediately called in the special forces known as “Delta” to assist. He spoke of how he saw injured and dead, but that ambulance crews were on the scene.

He also testified that a security guard from inside the bombed building had pictures of the terror suspect wearing a police uniform, and that for a while, he and colleagues worried it really was a police officer behind the attacks. It was also Langli who later sent the Delta force to Utøya, after reports of shooting reached them.

For attorney Mette Yvonne Larsen, who represents many survivors and families of the victims, the day was especially difficult because she was personally acquainted with one of the eight persons killed in the bombing. Jon Vegard Lervåg was a 32-year-old lawyer in the Justice Ministry and officially on holiday last July 22, but he had stopped by the office to deliver some papers. Lervåg, originally from Ålesund, happened to be walking by the van containing the bomb when it went off.

Larsen asked Breivik if he knew where Lervåg worked “because I wanted the court to know. I don’t want him (Lervåg) to just be a name and a number in an autopsy report and nothing more,” Larsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Difficult body identification process
County coroner Arne Stray-Pedersen described the difficulty of the identification process  because of the need to collect body parts. Many of the details about how victims died were too much for family members, with several leaving the courtroom or quietly dissolving into tears. Breivik himself showed no emotion as the results of his bombing emerged in court.

His trial is being broadcast live to 17 courtrooms around Norway, but reports from Kristiansand in the south to Ålesund in the west and Tromsø in the north revealed few if any persons showing up to sit through proceedings on Tuesday. No one watched proceedings from the courthouse in Kristiansund on the west coast, while only 11 persons showed up in Trondheim. Courtrooms in Tønsberg, Salten and Jæren also reported very sparse attendance after Breivik himself ended his direct testimony on Monday.

Court officials think attendance will rise again, when the trial calls witnesses who were on the island of Utøya, where Breivik killed 69 persons, and when proceedings wind down in June. In the meantime, many apparently just needed a break.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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