Terror suspect still on probation

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Norwegian right-wing extremist Kristian “Varg” Vikernes, under arrest in France on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack, technically remains on probation in Norway after a history of violent crime. Local authorities apparently let him move abroad after releasing him five years early from his 21-year prison sentence.

Kristian "Varg" Vikernes, shown here while still serving prison time in Norway, is a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi whose 21-year sentence for murder and arson runs well into next year. He was released from prison early, though, in 2009. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Kristian “Varg” Vikernes, shown here while still serving prison time in Norway, is a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi whose 21-year sentence for murder and arson runs well into next year. He was released from prison early, though, in 2009. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Vikernes, convicted in 1994 of repeatedly stabbing a fellow musician to death and burning down three churches in Norway, was given credit for the time he’d already spent in custody when he was sentenced to 21 years in jail. That’s the longest prison term allowed in Norway, unless a convict is also considered so dangerous that he or she is placed under a special form of protective custody now known a forvaring. That can effectively keep a convict in jail for life.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Wednesday that Vikernes was a candidate for an earlier form of such custody known as sikring at the time, but prosecutors didn’t ask for it. Because Vikernes was only 21 years old when he was convicted, justice officials decided they would return to the question of protective custody towards the end of Vikernes’ term but that didn’t happen because of a legal technicality.

Escaped and stole a car, too
Even though Vikernes also escaped from jail in 2004 and stole a car before being apprehended again, criminal justice officials opted to release him in 2009, five years ahead of his formal release date in August of next year. Less than 10 months later, according to Aftenposten, he was officially registered as having emigrated to France, even though he still was required to periodically report to authorities during the five years of what amounted to probation.

It wasn’t clear why he was released, but Norway’s criminal justice system has a reputation for being relatively lenient and his former defense attorney John Christian Elden told Aftenposten that “it’s up to Kriminalomsorgen (the state department of corrections, literally ‘care for criminals’) to decide what’s best for society. That can, in certain situations, be to move far out of the country.” Elden, who has said that Vikernes has not contacted him since being arrested by French police on Tuesday, stressed that he was speaking in general terms and not specifically on what happened in Vikernes’ case.

Now faces new charges
Convicts can’t move while under probation in Norway without permission from the authorities, so Vikernes’ move to France must have been allowed. He also, in practice, was no longer subject to the rule that he must regularly check in with authorities.

Marianne Vollan, director of Kriminalomsorgen, told Aftenposten that if convicts on probation commit new crimes, it’s viewed as a violation of probation that can send the convict back to prison and lead to additional convictions. That’s what Vikernes apparently faces now, if French authorities formally charge him with planning terrorist activity. A French government minister said on Tuesday that he’s viewed as a threat to society, given his extreme right-wing views and inflammatory statements published on the Internet.

Meanwhile, Vikernes still faces millions of kroner worth of compensation claims for burning down three historic churches in Norway. After 20 years of interest accumulation on the initial amount, the claims now reportedly amount to around NOK 50 million.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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