As the date nears for a verdict in the trial of confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, the head of the Labour Party youth organization that Breivik attacked has long felt confident the 33-year-old defendant will be kept in custody for the rest of his life. Other politicians seem confident as well, prompting lawyers to complain they’re trying to override the country’s judicial system.
Eskil Pedersen, who fled Breivik’s bullets himself but lost 69 members of Labour’s youth organization AUF, told foreign journalists in Oslo as early as last spring that “the most important thing for me is that this person will never be a danger to people again.” Pedersen, like many other political leaders, has consistently refused to utter Breivik’s name, referring to him only as gjerningsmannen (the perpetrator) or, as in this case, “this person.”
“I’m quite confident he will never be on the streets again,” said Pedersen. “As long as he is a danger to his surroundings, he cannot be released.”
Asked how he can be so “confident” in a country that doesn’t have an official life sentence, Pedersen said it was “simply because he has carried out this attack” and that there are provisions “within the judicial system and laws” to keep such dangerous criminals confined. He was referring to the sentencing term known as forvaring in Norway, which can be imposed on the country’s longest prison term of 21 years and means convicts can be kept confined for additional terms indefinitely, based on a judge’s determination of the threat they may pose to society.
“It’s not called a life sentence, but it opens up the possibility,” Pedersen told reporters. He said he has “no preference” whether Breivik is ruled sane and sentenced to prison or insane and committed to psychiatric care, because he’ll remain in high-security confinement either way. Norway has no psychiatric hospital that’s considered secure enough to confine Breivik, so it’s likely he’ll stay at Ila Prison where he is now, just west of Oslo in Bærum, and receive any court-ordered psychiatric treatment there.
Despite strong opposition in Parliament, Norway’s Labour-led coalition government pushed through a measure this spring that’s come to be known as “Lex Breivik.” It allows for such stricter security arrangements for convicts deemed insane, and was signed into law by King Harald in June.
Pedersen has called Breivik’s bombing of government headquarters in Oslo and the subsequent massacre he carried out on the island of Utøya a “political attack” with “right-wing extremist political motives” behind it.
“I think one of the reasons the gunman attacked us (the Labour-led government and Labour’ AUF) is because of the success of our society and Labour’s power,” Pedersen said. “We support a multi-cultural society and we’re carrying out policies that have been quite successful, giving fair opportunities to everyone.” Breivik opposed such policies.
Pedersen seemed to gain support for his view that Breivik should never be freed from several Members of Parliament. They weren’t happy with recent comments made by Breivik’s defense attorney Geir Lippestad, who stressed that Norway still has no clear “life sentence” and that Norwegians should realize that he may, one day in the future “as an old man,” be back on the streets.
Politicians from not only Labour but also the Center Party, the Christian Democrats and the Progress Party, many of whom are gathering in Arendal this week for public debates, said it was “unthinkable” for Breivik to be released back into society. “With his twisted ideas and attitudes, I have difficulty believing he’ll ever be released,” said MP Lars Peder Brekk of the Center Party.
Prominent attorneys in Norway including Harald Stabell and Frode Sulland think the politicians are out of line in expressing opinions on what’s ultimately up to a judge to decide. “Politicians are asserting themselves above the judiciary by saying he (Breivik) will get a life term,” Stabell told newspaper Aftenposten. “That was, in fact, eliminated 30 years ago. No one can today say with certainty that he will be confined for the rest of his life.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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