Killer Breivik Faces 21 Years in Norway Jail

Anders Behring Breivik
Norwegians, who have sat through 10 weeks of Anders Behring Breivik defending his massacre of 77 teenagers and government workers last year, will find out today whether judges deem him mentally fit for a guilty verdict. Photographer: Daniel Sannum Lauten/AFP/GettyImages

Anders Behring Breivik, who spent 10 weeks in court defending his massacre of 77 people last year, will serve 21 years in jail after both killer and prosecution said they won’t appeal a ruling which found him to be sane.

Breivik, who smiled as Judge Wenche Arntzen read out the verdict, was sentenced to a 21-year jail term and must serve a minimum of 10 years. All five judges, two professional and three lay, agreed on the verdict, Arntzen said.

“It’s a big relief for me and my clients,” Cathrine Groendahl, a lawyer at Hestenes & Dramer representing survivors of the shooting, said in an interview after the verdict was read. “The judges said that it’s about the victims, and they wanted to point at the victims, to look at them and see how they have suffered - to make the case about them. We are all relieved.”

Last year’s July 22 attacks, in which Breivik first detonated a bomb outside Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s office, killing eight, before sailing to the island of Utoeya to gun down 69 people attending a youth gathering of the ruling Labor Party, have forced the world’s third-richest nation per capita to review the freedoms that had defined it. As today’s proceedings continued, people sitting in the courtroom wept as Judge Arne Lyng read out details of the shootings that killed mostly teenagers.

Extended Term

The question of how to deal with Breivik has left Norwegians torn as they weigh the need for punishment against the ideals of a welfare model in which rehabilitation is the ultimate goal. While the maximum jail sentence in Norway is 21 years, the term can be extended by five years at a time if an inmate is still deemed a danger to society.

“I don’t think he will be let out; he will be found dangerous,” Groendahl said. “He found a rational reason for it, he believes it. He even said he wanted to kill more people.”

Thirty-three-year-old Breivik, who has spent the time since confessing to the killings in a high-security prison wing with access to a computer and his own treadmill, has insisted he’s no lunatic. He’s used the trial to defend his xenophobic views, and said the killings were necessary to protect Norway from multiculturalism.

‘He’s Responsible’

Judges had seen two psychiatric reports: one found Breivik unfit for sentencing, the other deemed him sane. While the victims and Breivik himself had sought a sanity verdict, the prosecution, which represents the government, had argued he may be mentally unfit for prison.

Judge Wenche Arntzen criticized the first psychiatric report that found Breivik was psychotic, saying it failed to interpret the killer’s statements, such as his claim to be part of a civil war, in a “political context.” The killer has a narcissistic antisocial personality disorder, she said.

Since Breivik doesn’t recognize the court, he can’t accept the ruling, he told the judges today. “The ruling is in my eyes illegitimate” he said. “At the same time, I can’t appeal the judgment, because I would thereby legitimize the court.”

The prosecution won’t appeal the decision, prosecutor Svein Holden told reporters after the court adjourned.

Breivik had “tried to eradicate an entire generation of Labor Party youth members and he hit us very hard, but he didn’t defeat us,” Eskil Pedersen, who leads the group and was on the island when Breivik started shooting, said in an interview with national broadcaster NRK.

Spread Roses

“This is a far-right terrorist,” he said. “We are planning to use our political engagement for the rest of our lives to fight that.”

Norwegians have so far refused to alter established rules or customs in response to Breivik’s acts. When he first appeared in court in April, prosecutors, counselors for the victims’ families and court psychiatrists all shook his hand, in accordance with Norwegian court-room etiquette.

The biggest disturbance during the trial was when the brother of one of the victims threw his shoe at Breivik.

Locals have spread roses around the Oslo courthouse to honor the victims. Breivik’s court-room jibe at the Norwegian version of a popular song, “My Rainbow Race,” as an example of how the establishment brainwashes the young was met with a spontaneous gathering of hundreds of Norwegians, who chanted the song on one of Oslo’s main squares.

‘Let Down’

Meanwhile, Breivik has spent his time in detention writing his memoirs, according to his lawyer, Tord Jordet. The self-confessed killer plans to finish the book in the first half of next year and has received unconfirmed offers from publishers in southern Europe, Jordet said. Breivik has no illusion the book will ever be published in Norway, he said.

While there’s a tendency to “want the outcome that is worst for” Breivik, said Jon Harald Sande Lie, a 35-year-old researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo, “it’s an Old-Testament approach, and it can’t be done; one has to accept the justice system. I trust them to make the right decision. It’s a matter of finding the right balance.”

Norwegians were let down by security forces, an Aug. 13 report found. The July 22 Commission that published its findings last week said police failed to respond effectively to the attacks, forgetting to deploy a helicopter and sailing to Utoeya in a small, inflatable boat that suffered engine trouble. A second, civilian boat was then used, though its motor was too weak to carry all 10 officers, making progress slow. A third boat, also civilian, picked up four officers to split the load.

‘Rude Awakening’

The delays were “unacceptable,” according to the commission. Norway’s largest tabloid newspaper VG has since called for Stoltenberg’s resignation.

Police Chief Oeystein Maeland stepped down the same week as the report was released after Justice Minister Knut Storberget resigned in November. Stoltenberg, who faces elections next year, has said he will stay in office.

“Norwegian politicians, like the Norwegian people, had thought that these things couldn’t happen here,” Anders Romarheim, an anti-terrorism researcher at the Institute for Defense Studies in Oslo, said in an interview. The attacks were “a rude awakening of the very worst kind,” he said.

Stoltenberg has said Norway will work to improve police security, including measures to make it easier for the army to assist in emergencies. The Justice Ministry is also looking into making it easier to prosecute to prevent terrorist acts.

Norway, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, has been spared the destructive fallout of Europe’s debt crisis thanks to its oil wealth.

‘Best Society’

The nation, which boasts a $620 billion sovereign-wealth fund and no net debt, has Europe’s lowest unemployment rate and one of the world’s most even income distributions. The country uses quotas in boardrooms and politics to ensure all society’s groups are fairly represented.

The ease with which Breivik executed his attacks may in part lie in the vulnerability created by Norway’s prosperity and openness, said Nina Witoszek, an Oslo University professor who moved to Norway in the 1980s and has written books on Norwegian identity including “The Origins of the Regime of Goodness - Remapping the Cultural History of Norway.”

“The conviction that we live in the best society in the world makes us certain of our own welfare and immune to concern,” she said in an interview. The authorities’ response to the attacks “was a combination of stupidity, nonchalance, optimism and decadence,” she said. How to deal with the aftermath of Breivik “will divide the country,” she said.

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