Nation heaves a sigh of relief

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Reaction to a court verdict that may imprison mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik for life can be described as one huge national sigh of relief. Victims’ families, survivors, politicians and law professors were among those specifically and repeatedly using the word lettelse (relief), and they hope the verdict stands. 

“We hope this puts an end to this national trauma,” Raymond Johansen, secretary of the Labour Party that was Breivik’s main target on July 22, 2011, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He claimed that “a calculating terrorist has received his judgment. It’s a huge relief.”

The sentence of 21 years in prison with possible five-year extensions for the rest of his life was made on the basis that Breivik was not insane when he killed 77 persons last year, and can thus be held accountable for his actions. Johansen said that making Breivik subject to Norway’s strongest and toughest punishment possible was “the most logical result” and that he was “very glad” the court handed it down.

More praise for the court and its judicial panel came from lawyers throughout the afternoon, as lead Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen and her colleague, Arne Lyng, explained why they didn’t believe Breivik was insane. Several legal experts told NRK that their explanation showed the verdict to be extremely comprehensive and well-thought-out.

Eskil Pedersen, leader of the Labour Party youth group who fled the massacre that Breivik carried out at the group’s summer camp, said the verdict proved that Breivik’s attacks amounted to “a political assasination” carried out by a “right-wing extremist.” Pedersen said he hoped the state prosecutors who had asked that Breivik be committed to psychiatric care instead of sentenced to jail would not appeal.

Opposition politicians in Parliament, meanwhile, also welcomed the jail sentence. The head of the Christian Democrats said he heaved “a sigh of relief” himself and thinks the verdict shows “the strength of our legal system.” Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party (Venstre) said she thinks “we have judges we can be very proud of today,” while Siv Jensen of the Progress Party called the verdict “reassuring” but said it also shows “how we need to discuss the use of court-appointed psychiatrists” and whether punishments are strict enough. André Oktay Dahl said a debate on how criminals are punished had already begun.

Trond Blattmann, who lost a son on Utøya and has led one of the largest groups representing families of victims, told NRK that he was “very glad” that Breivik was ruled to be sane and able to be sent to jail, while one survivor of Breivik’s massacre said that “the most important thing now is to continue the fight against right-wing extremism.”

Jensen thought something else was important as well: “I hope this gives the victims and survivors some peace now.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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