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Grandstanding fears as Norwegian mass killer seeks parole

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By Euronews  with AP
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Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik sits in the makeshift courtroom in Skien prison, Norway, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.
Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik sits in the makeshift courtroom in Skien prison, Norway, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.   -   Copyright  Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB / AP

A far-right extremist who killed 77 people in a terror attack in Norway has appeared before a parole hearing.

Anders Behring Breivik served 10 years in prison for the bomb and gun massacre in Oslo and on the island of Utøya in 2011.

The mass killer has shown no remorse but claims he is no longer a danger to society as he attempts to get an early release from his 21-year sentence.

Families of victims and survivors fear he will grandstand his extreme views during the hearing, which experts say is unlikely to deliver him an early release.

“The only thing I am afraid of is if he has the opportunity to talk freely and convey his extreme views to people who have the same mindset,” said Lisbeth Kristine Røyneland, who heads a family and survivors support group.

Breivik made Nazi salutes as he entered the courtroom on Tuesday and seemingly used the hearing to share white supremacist propaganda.

Prosecutor Hulda Karlsdottir said that the hearing will determine whether Breivik -- who legally changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen in 2017 -- still poses a danger.

“The main topic here is the danger associated with release,” she told the Telemark District Court.

The hearing is due to last three days, but the verdict will not be announced for several weeks.

It was on July 22, 2011, when, after months of meticulous preparations, Breivik set off a car bomb outside the government headquarters in Oslo, killing eight people and wounding dozens.

He then drove to Utøya, where he opened fire on the annual summer camp of the left-wing Labour Party’s youth wing. Sixty-nine people there were killed, most of them teenagers, before Breivik surrendered to police.

In 2012, Breivik was handed the maximum 21-year sentence with a clause — rarely used in the Norwegian justice system — that he can be held indefinitely if he is still considered a danger to society.

It is this clause that means he can demand a parole hearing after 10 years. And while this likely means a lifelong sentence, it also opens the possibility that Breivik can demand annual parole hearings where he can broadcast his views, says Johnsen.

“According to Norwegian law he has a right now to go before a judge,” said Øystein Storrvik, Breivik’s defense lawyer. “He emphasises that right. And his motivation for doing so is difficult for me to have an opinion on.”

“According to the law there is no obligation that you have to be remorseful,” Storrvik added. “So it is not a legal main point. Absolutely the legal problem is whether he is dangerous.”

In 2016, Breivik sued the Norwegian government, saying his isolation from other prisoners and frequent strip searches violated his human rights. He initially won his case, but the verdict was overturned by higher courts in 2017.

Randi Rosenqvist, the psychiatrist who has followed Breivik since 2012, said she could “not detect great changes in Breivik’s functioning,” since his original criminal trial.

He was then convicted of terrorist acts after finding him criminally sane, with a court rejecting the prosecution’s view that he was psychotic.

Beyond providing a pulpit for the killer, the latest parole hearing could re-open psychological wounds for families of victims and survivors, says Røyneland.

“I think personally it is absurd he has this possibility. I think he is ridiculous, but you have to remember that him having all this attention will be hard for the survivors and the parents and some people can be retraumatised.”

Røyneland pointed to the case of Philip Manshaus who -- inspired by the 2019 New Zealand terror attacks -- murdered his stepsister and attempted to storm a mosque.