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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Terror trial resumes with shorter days in court, to relieve mental stress

The trial of Norway’s home-grown terrorist resumed on Thursday after a five-day break, and shorter days in court are now part of the plan for proceedings. As testimony turns to the autopsy reports of 69 more victims, attorneys agreed that shorter days were necessary in order to relieve the mental stress of the subject matter involved.

“There’s a mental limit to how many victims we can manage in a day,” prosecutor Svein Holden told reporters at a press conference after the 11th day in the trial of confessed mass murderer and terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.

Autopsy reports for each victim
The court faces nine autopsy reports on Friday, and going through those of Breivik’s other 60 victims in his massacre on the island of Utøya will take all of next week. The trial has devoted most of the month of May to the shootings on Utøya, which has been deemed the largest mass murder carried out by a single person in human history.

The shorter days in court “also has something to do with dignity,” Holden said. “It’s important to have enough time,” he said, to devote enough attention to each victim.

Mette Yvonne Larsen, an attorney representing many families of the victims, many of whom were young, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) earlier in the day that she wants to show photos of each victim before they were killed and read a short text about each as well, “to see how they were. I don’t want this to be only clinical.”

Breivik tricked his way onto island’s ferry
Thursday’s court proceedings included testimony from a young security guard for the Labour Party’s youth summer camp on Utøya, which is what Breivik targeted in his attack. Breivik, dressed as a police officer and brandishing forged ID cards, tricked the young man into believing he had been sent to the island to brief campers on the bombing in Oslo just an hour earlier, for which he had also been responsible.

The young guard thus let Breivik on board the ferry that shuttled back and forth between the island and the mainland. Its skipper also testified on Thursday, and described how he saw Breivik shoot and kill another security guard on the island, how he panicked and ran around the island himself in shock, and then how he fled the island on the ferry with a few young Labour leaders on board as well.

“When I saw Trond Berntsen (the security guard) go down, I thought it was sort of practice session, but then I also thought something was wrong,” said the skipper, whose name was withheld in Norwegian media. “I thought maybe (Breivik) had been sent as a terrorist to the countries that bombed Libya (of which Norway was included).”

‘Full of fear, anxiety and panic’
The skipper said he ran up a hill and was sure he’d also be shot in the back, like Berntsen was. “I thought there’d be a hostage situation,” he said, adding that he and his late partner Monica Bøsei, had talked about how Utøya would be “perfect” for a hostage situation.

The couple had a daughter who was also on the island. She survived Breivik’s attack, but the skipper couldn’t find her. He ended up running back to the ferry, and set off with, among others, the leader of Labour youth organization AUF Eskil Pedersen on board. “I was full of fear and anxiety, full of panic,” he said, but he defended his decision to flee. He was the only person who could pilot the ferry and felt he had to get Pedersen and the others away from the island.

He testified that his family has had a very tough time since the attacks. His daughters lost their mother, “the dearest they had.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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