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Breivik sits between his representatives Alamy

Isolation in Norwegian prison making mass murderer Breivik 'depressed', says lawyer

Breivik was sentenced in 2012 to 21 years in prison for setting off a bomb that killed eight people, and gunning down 69 others.

ANDERS BEHRING BREIVIK, the right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in 2011, is “suicidal” due to his strict prison conditions, his lawyer said as his trial against the Norwegian state opened today.

Breivik, now 44, has been held apart from other inmates in high-security facilities for over 11 years.

He argues that his extended isolation is a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “inhumane” and “degrading” treatment.

“The main damage linked to Breivik’s isolation is that he no longer has the desire to live. You can call it a depression,” lawyer Oystein Storrvik told the court, convened for security reasons in the gymnasium of Ringerike prison where his client is being held.

“At times, he is more or less suicidal,” Storrvik added, citing an incident where Breivik – whom Storrvik says now takes Prozac to get through his days in prison – cried out “Kill me! Please, kill me.”

Breivik appeared at today’s session clad in a dark suit, with a greying beard and a shaved head.

He refrained from the provocative gestures he has made on previous occasions, and was passive throughout the proceedings.

On 22 July 2011, Breivik set off a bomb near government offices in Oslo, killing eight people, before gunning down 69 others, mostly teens, at a Labour Party youth wing summer camp on the island of Utoya.

He was sentenced in 2012 to 21 years in prison, which can be extended as long as he is considered a threat.

“He’ll never get out, he’s well aware of that,” Storrvik told the court.

“Can you hand down a (de facto) life sentence and prevent him from any human contact while the sentence is served?” he asked the court.

He argued that Norwegian authorities had not put sufficient measures in place to compensate for Breivik’s relative isolation.

His human interaction is mostly limited to contacts with professionals such as wardens, lawyers and a chaplain, “without any possibility to have real friendships,” Storrvik said.

Citing another article of the Convention on Human Rights that guarantees the right to correspondence, Breivik has also asked for an easing of restrictions on his incoming and outgoing letters.

Pet budgies

In the Ringerike prison located on the shores of the lake that surrounds the island of Utoya, Breivik has access to several rooms, including a kitchen, a TV room with a game console, and an exercise room.

Prison officials have also complied with his request for a pet by providing him with three budgies.

Norway prides itself on a humane prison system aimed at rehabilitation rather than punishment.

In 2016, Breivik sued the Norwegian state on the same grounds, with a lower court ruling in his favour before higher courts found in the state’s favour.

In 2018, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed his case as “inadmissible”.

The Norwegian state has argued that Breivik’s isolation is relative and that his prison conditions are warranted due to the risks he both poses and faces.

“An extraordinarily dangerous inmate requires extraordinary security measures,” the state’s lawyer Andreas Hjetland told the court.

‘Very humane’ conditions

“The prison conditions are nowhere near the level of human rights violations,” Hjetland insisted.

“On the contrary, one could say that the prison conditions are particularly humane.”

The state pointed out that Breivik enjoys “a wide range of activities” such as cooking, games, walks, basketball and studies.

Breivik has in the past used his public appearances as platforms to air his political ideology and provocations, including Hitler salutes and tirades, which have been painful for survivors and relatives of the victims.

“Many are fed up and try to keep this all at a distance,” Lisbeth Kristine Royneland, the head of a support group for families of the victims and who lost her 18-year-old daughter on Utoya, told AFP.

“Naturally people feel this is a burden because it brings back memories,” said another group member Merete Stamneshagen, who also lost her 18-year-old daughter on the island.

The Oslo court has barred Breivik’s testimony, due on Tuesday, from being broadcast in the media amid fears he could use it as a platform for his political views.

© AFP 2024

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