Anders Breivik: Norwegian mass murderer gives Nazi salute in court appearance

Breivik makes gesture at start of appeal case at makeshift court in Skien

Tuesday 10 January 2017 15:36 GMT
Breivik has accused the Norwegian government of violating his human rights in prison
Breivik has accused the Norwegian government of violating his human rights in prison (Reuters)

Anders Breivik has given a Nazi salute to a court that will rule on whether his human rights have been violated in prison.

Norway’s government is trying to overturn the verdict that it violated Breivik’s human rights by keeping him in isolation. A judge from Oslo District Court said the country had violated a ban on “inhuman and degrading” treatment.

Dressed in a dark suit, Breivik stared briefly at reporters while making the salute but didn’t speak.

Judge Oystein Hermansen asked him not to repeat the salute, saying it insulted the dignity of the court.

“It also disturbs what we are dealing with here,” Judge Hermansen said, brushing aside attempts by Breivik to defend his action.

The 37-year-old right-wing extremist, who killed 77 people in a bomb and shooting rampage in 2011, sued the government last year. He argued that his solitary confinement, frequent strip searches and the fact that he was often handcuffed during the early part of his incarceration violated his human rights. But lawyers representing the government said that he enjoys better prison conditions than some inmates in Norway. They also warned that he remains a threat and should continue to be held in solitary confinement.

The government is appealing a surprise decision in April by the Oslo District Court, which sided with Breivik’s claims that his isolation in the maximum-security Skien prison breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ruling said “the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment represents a fundamental value in a democratic society. This applies no matter what – also in the treatment of terrorists and killers.” It also ordered the government to pay Breivik’s legal costs of 331,000 kroner (£32,000).

However, it dismissed his claim that his right to respect for private and family life was violated by restrictions on contacts with other right-wing extremists.

Speaking for the state, Fredrik Sejersted said the government’s view is that Breivik’s prison conditions don’t violate his human rights.

Describing the killer as Norway’s most expensive prisoner, Mr Sejersted said that “in many ways they are better than [those] of other prisoners to compensate for the fact that he cannot make contact with other inmates.”

“That is far from violating human rights,” he said.

Breivik was convicted of mass murder and terrorism in 2012 and given a 21-year prison sentence that can be extended for as long as he’s deemed dangerous to society. Legal experts say he will likely be locked up for life. He is being held in isolation in a three-room cell complex where he can play video games, watch TV and exercise. He has also complained about the quality of the prison food, having to eat with plastic utensils and not being able to communicate with sympathisers.

The government has rejected his complaints, saying he is treated humanely despite the severity of his crimes and that he must be separated from other inmates for safety reasons.

Breivik had carefully planned the attacks on 22 July, 2011. He set off a car bomb outside the government headquarters in Oslo, killing eight people and wounding dozens. Dressed in a police uniform, Breivik then drove to the island of Utoya, about 25 miles away, where he opened fire on the annual summer camp of the left-wing Labour Party’s youth wing. 69 people there were killed, most of them teenagers, before he surrendered to police.

At the time of the attacks, Breivik claimed to be the commander of a secret Christian military order plotting an anti-Muslim revolution in Europe, but now describes himself as a traditional neo-Nazi.

Mr Sejersted described Breivik as Norway’s most dangerous man at the time of the attacks and warned of the difficulty to assess how dangerous he will be “tomorrow, next year or in 10 years”.

“But he has strengthened his right-wing beliefs,” Mr Sjerested told the court.

The hearing continues on Wednesday in a makeshift courtroom in the gym of Telemark prison in Skien, southern Norway, where Breivik is incarcerated. Government attorneys will continue to state their case before Breivik is heard on Thursday.

Six days have been reserved for the hearings by the Borgarting Court of Appeal. A ruling is expected in February.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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