More survivors testify in terror trial

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Norway’s difficult terror trial continued Friday with more survivors of the bomb attack on Norway’s government testifying about their ordeal and their injuries. All involved could look forward to a long weekend break in the grim proceedings, however, and several survivors were also cheered by Thursday’s outpouring of support through roses and song.

Anders Behring Breivik on the 10th day of his trial, before proceedings began Friday morning. He continues to show little if any reaction or emotion as survivors of his bombing describe their injuries. His defense attorneys said he had "registered" Thursday's demonstration with song and roses, but had no further comment. PHOTO: NRK pool

Tuesday, May 1st, is the annual labour day holiday in Norway, so the courthouse will be closed. Attorneys involved took the initiative late Thursday to combine those originally scheduled to testify on Monday with Friday’s list of witnesses, so that Monday’s proceedings could be cancelled. That effectively allows everyone involved in the trial at least a four-day weekend. Court proceedings will resume on Thursday May 3.

Among the eight persons testifying on Friday was a 56-year-old employee in the Transport Ministry, who was returning to his office on the afternoon of July 22 when the bomb went off. He was thrown several meters by the blast and since has undergone 10 operations, including the amputation of his left leg above the knee. He wasn’t able to move home until earlier this month.

Also testifying was 31-year-old Kristian Rasmussen, who was working in the Oil and Energy Ministry that was among the buildings hardest hit in the blast. There were few in the office because of Norway’s traditional summer holidays in July, but Rasmussen was at his desk when the window in his office blew into him, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He had already lost an estimated two liters of blood when search and rescue workers found him, and he spent 12 days in a coma.

Two passersby who rushed to the aid of bomb victims were also due to testify on Friday, as the prosecution presents factual accounts of what happened when confessed Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik launched the first of his two attacks. Among those testifying Thursday was 67-year-old Harald Føsker, a veteran of the Justice Ministry, who was also badly injured in the blast. He has lost 80 percent of his vision.

Grateful for Thursday’s demonstration
Føsker was also among survivors, however, who was moved to tears on Thursday when an estimated 40,000 of his fellow Norwegians gathered on a nearby city square to wave roses and sing a song about peace and diversity that Breivik had scoffed at earlier in the week.

“This is all very moving, and beautiful,” Føsker told news bureau NTB when he emerged from the courthouse and saw the piles of roses that participants had placed outside after singing Barn av regnbuen (Children of the rainbow), a Norwegian version of the American song My Rainbow Race by Pete Seeger. “Just have a look around. All of us have the same outlook,” he added, referring to the 40,000 sing-along participants, “except one person. Those of us physically hurt is one thing, but the entire country has been hit by this.”

Trond Blattmann, head of a survivors’ group, was also grateful and said the huge gathering encouraged him and many others, while the head of Breivik’s main target, the Labour Party youth organization AUF, had also thanked the crowd for assembling and was seen wiping away a tear.

‘Massive group therapy’
Some newspaper commentators called the demonstration a massive display of group therapy, and noted that Norwegians needed a means of expressing themselves after the trial that began last week. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said that for many, the trial, while a necessary process under Norwegian law that’s attracted huge interest, is “ripping open sores that were starting to heal.” The latest mass gathering featuring roses and song was a new attempt at healing and sending a message to Breivik that he doesn’t represent them. One woman told NRK she participated to demonstrate that “roses and song are the best weapons.”

Lill Hjønnevåg, one of the two women who spontaneously organized the song demonstration, called it a tribute to all the 77 persons killed by Breivik, all their families and survivors, and those who risked their own lives to help those in need, both in Oslo and on the island of Utøya.

Breivik’s defense attorneys told reporters that Breivik “had registered” the massive demonstration but they declined to offer more details of his reaction.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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