Parents face new tough week in court

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Nearly all the parents of young Labour Party members killed in a terrorist’s massacre on the island of Utøya were opting to appear in court in Oslo this week, to be there when the autopsy reports of their murdered children were to be examined. “This is all about showing opposition to (the man) who did this,” said one mother. “He can’t be allowed to scare us away.”

Randi Johansen Perreau was among those who showed up at the trial of confessed mass murderer and terrorist Anders Behring Breivik as it entered its fourth week on Monday. Her son Rolf Christopher, age 25, was killed by Breivik’s bullets on Utøya last summer. Another 15-year-old son survived.

‘Brutal, sad … but important’
“It was tough, brutal, sad and gruesome but also important,” Perreau told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) as she and other parents emerged from the court. As announced last week, the court sessions are shorter this week, because of the difficult nature of the issues at hand. “For me, it’s important to understand that this is the hard reality. This isn’t a movie or something on TV.”

Family members from 63 of the 69 victims killed on Utøya in the last afternoon of July 22 have chosen to attend the court sessions in Oslo, where the coroner’s reports on how each victim died are being read into the court record. The six who aren’t traveling to Oslo can choose to follow the proceedings by video link to their own local courthouses.

Forensic pathologist and professor Torleiv Ole Rognum, who earlier has worked with autopsies from Norwegian victims of the tsunami that hit Thailand and the scores killed in a fire on board the cruise ferry Scandinavian Star, said his job this week is especially difficult. While those victims were killed by accidents, these victims were killed at the hand of another Norwegian, Rognum noted.

‘Man-made tragedy’
“The worst is that this was a man-made tragedy,” Rognum told newspaper Aftenposten. It was “just terrible” to receive so many young murder victims from Utøya, he said. He said he was touched by all the colleagues who cut short summer holidays and showed up at work, to help conduct autopsies around the clock as the dead were brought in.

In total, 35 women and girls and 34 men and boys were killed on Utøya. They were aged 14 to 52, but most were under 18. They were shot from one to eight times, with most of them hit by around three shots. While one victim died at hospital afterwards, 68 died on the island. One cause of death was linked to both gunshots and drowning. One victim drowned while trying to escape Breivik’s massacre.

The court has devoted the entire week to the murders on Utøya. The first nine were examined on Friday, the remaining 60 cases began on Monday. Attorneys for victims’ families have won unusual court approval to read a short statement about each victim before their autopsy is discussed.

Testimony from survivors of the massacre will begin next week.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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