Norway’s criminal corrections agency has failed, according to attorneys and a murder victim’s mother, to rehabilitate a convicted neo-Nazi who was charged in a fatal racist attack on African-Norwegian teenager Benjamin Hermansen in 2001. The now 35-year-old Ole Nicolai Kvisler has already been released from prison and has promoted and participated in at least two neo-Nazi gatherings since.
Several Norwegian newspapers reported over the weekend how Kvisler, shortly after he was released from 12 years in prison, attended first a neo-Nazi gathering in Sweden and, more recently, one in Finland. Kvisler, initially sentenced to 17 years in prison, not only was released five years early on parole but he immediately started associating once again with white anti-immigration extremists.
“I feel really let down,” Marit Hermansen, mother of Kvisler’s teenage victim 13 years ago, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Saturday. “I get scared, on behalf of very many others. He (Kvisler) clearly thinks the same now as he thought then.” There’s been no rehabilitation of his ways, in her view, and it seems incredible to her that he’s allowed, while technically out on parole for murder, to associate with potentially violent neo-Nazi groups.
Kvisler was a member of the Norwegian white extremist group called “Boot Boys” when he and another member, Joe Erling Jahr, cornered Hermansen on a city street in Oslo’s Holmlia district and stabbed him to death, in what appeared to be a random attack. A teenage girl was with them, Veronica Andreassen, and all three were eventually arrested and sentenced to 17, 18 and three years in prison. All have since been released.
Hermansen’s death set off a massive public protest in Norway, with thousands of Norwegians and top officials taking part in torch-lit demonstrations against neo-Nazi violence and racism. In Oslo alone, the crowds were estimated at as many as 40,000, and demonstrations were also held on the 10th anniversary of Hermansen’s murder in 2011.
Now Benjamin Hermansen’s mother fears someone like Kvisler, released early on parole, can command the respect of other neo-Nazis. “It gives him high kred (credibility) in that milieu to kill someone they would call a svarting (black),” she told NRK.
Newspaper Klassekampen had first reported that Kvisler attended a meeting of the Swedish neo-Nazi group SMR (Svenska motståndsrörelsen) shortly after his release and that he had become active in a violent Swedish neo-Nazi network. Then newspaper Dagsavisen and the investigative journalism group Hate Speech International (HSI), which tracks extremists organizations, reported that Kvisler attended another neo-Nazi gathering in Finland last month. Kvisler reportedly led the five-member delegation from Norway, which he wrote about on his Facebook page.
‘I’m actually nothing’
Kvisler didn’t want to talk about the meeting in Finland when contacted by Dagsavisen/HSI, claiming he was merely trying to establish an “ordinary everyday life” after “a long time in prison.” He claimed he had no desire to make any political statements.
He said he had “some understanding” that some people are concerned about his activities after his release from prison. “I think people should rather judge behaviour more than political attitudes,” Kvisler told Dagsavisen/HSI. Asked whether he was still a neo-Nazi, he replied that “I’m actually nothing. I have attitudes both in one camp and another. I have no problem putting some value on foreigners. I have no problem talking with right-wing extremists. I can’t be defined in either field.”
His comments on social media in September, before heading for the meeting in Finland, suggest otherwise: “On the 18th of October there will be great seminar in Helsinki, about (former German Nazi offical Rudolf) Hess, his life and death,” he wrote. He then offered to lead those attending from Norway, and on the day of their departure, wrote that “you dear Norwegians” who “haven’t jumped on this wave” could “regret it.”
Ideologically motivated crime ‘not a priority’
Frode Sulland, who leads Norway’s group of defense attorneys, told NRK that it’s not a priority within Norway’s penal system to deal with ideology that motivates violent crime. The department of corrections, he said, “has not used many resources on fighting crime anchored in ideology.” He also fears more ideologically motivated crime in the future, even though ideology also must be protected by Norway’s laws guaranteeing freedom of expression.
Marianne Vollan, director of the corrections agency Kriminalomsorgsdirektoratet, wouldn’t comment on Kvisler’s case specificially, claiming only that her agency’s most important role was “to safely carry out a convict’s sentence.”
Norway’s police intelligence unit PST, which is trying to fight extremism in all forms, wouldn’t comment on whether it was now following Kvisler’s movements outside prison. Spokesman Martin Bernsen confirmed to NRK, however, that PST was following Norwegian neo-Nazis just as they were following Islamic extremists. “Our concerns are limited to individuals,” he said. “We don’t see a large, growing (neo-Nazi) milieu with strong leaders.”
Marit Hermansen, mother of Kvisler’s victim 13 years ago, remains unsettled. “I don’t want to think about Kvisler more than I have to,” she told Aftenposten. “But I think it’s a valid question to ask where his rehabilitation lies after he’s served his time.”