The Norwegian right-wing extremist who set off a massacre at a Labour Party youth camp after bombing government headquarters in 2011 exercised, as expected, his legal right to seek release from prison on Tuesday. He won’t succeed, agree legal experts, but it’s all part of a process that even his victims support as an important part of Norway’s democracy.
Anders Behring Breivik, now 42 years old, made another spectacle of himself in an improvised courtroom set up inside the gymnasium of the high-security prison in Skien where he’s currently being held. He entered the courtroom bearing signs with anti-immigration and racist slogans, and made repeated Nazi-type salutes before the judge scolded him, cut him off and ordered him to put the signs away. He quickly and obediently complied.
Media following what amounted to a parole hearing were careful not to air his oral statements live, and coverage throughout the day was relatively muted out of respect for the 77 people he killed on July 22, 2011 and their family members. They in turn have to respect Norway’s legal system that generally allows parole after serving 10 years of a criminal sentence. It’s recently been boosted to 14 years, but remains remarkably lenient compared to most other countries’ prison terms and systems. Norway stresses rehabilitation of criminals over locking them up for life. Just this week, the ringleader of a commando-style robbery (during which a police officer was shot and killed) showed up as a chess commentator on national TV. David Toska, convicted in the deadly NOKAS robbery of 2004 and several other crimes, served 13 of a 20-year sentence and has been free since 2018.
In Breivik’s case, though, legal experts and court-appointed psychiatrists agree that he remains an extremely dangerous man from whom society must be protected. He’s been branded as a psychopath who lacks empathy for others and has never expressed any regret over his bombing and massacre. He has a right to parole hearings on a regular basis, which he eagerly exploits, but all risk evaluations of him so far indicate he will remain in prison for life.