Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik appears before parole hearing

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right mass murderer behind the country’s worst peacetime massacre, has appeared in court asking to be released on parole after serving 10 years in prison in near isolation for killing 77 people in a double bomb and gun attack in 2011.

Breivik – who legally changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen in 2017 – attacked the country’s government quarter in Oslo with a van bomb before heading to a youth camp being held by the country’s Labour party on the island of Utøya where he killed 69 people, most of them teenagers, in a gun attack.

Despite the gravity of his crimes, Breivik, 42, is entitled under Norwegian law to apply for parole after serving a decade in prison of his 21-year sentence, and can reapply each year for a parole hearing.

The hearing, being held in a gymnasium at Skien prison to the south-west of Oslo under the auspices of Telemark district court, is expected to last three days and is being livestreamed.

Appearing on the first day of the hearing in a black suit and gold tie, Breivik – with a white supremacist message attached to his lapel and pasted on his briefcase – also made Nazi salutes.

Breivik was led into the hearing without handcuffs by officers, clutching a sheaf of papers.

During the opening presentation by the state prosecutor, Breivik held up the message on his briefcase, drawing a reprimand from the court.

Few observers in Norway believe Breivik has any realistic prospect of being released following the hearing, instead voicing their concern he would use the occasion to broadcast his extremist views.

Families of the victims and survivors had feared Brevik could inspire likeminded ideologues and grandstand his extreme views during the hearing.

“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, said ahead of the hearing.

Since being in prison, Breivik has continued to try to represent himself as a far-right European leader, attempting to rally support for his views. He has been trying to start a fascist party in prison and reached out by mail to rightwing extremists in Europe and the US. Prison officials seized many of those letters, fearing Breivik would inspire others to commit violent attacks.

Opening the proceedings, Hulda Karlsdottir, a prosecutor for the Norwegian state, chronicled the murders Breivik committed and told the court that the hearing was not related to Breivik’s prison conditions but the “danger” Breivik would pose should be be released.

Karlsdottir, who started the hearing by stating the conditions of Breivik’s imprisonment, told the court: “The main topic here is the danger associated with release.”

Among commentators writing ahead of the hearing was Øystein Milli, of the Norwegian tabloid VG.

“Usually I do not predict the outcome, but this time I am as sure as one can be. He will not be released. From what we know, there is little indication that Breivik has moved anything when it comes to his position, and that there is zero remorse to be found,” wrote Milli.

Among the state’s witnesses at the hearing is psychiatrist Randi Rosenqvist, who has assessed Breivik on a number of occasions as to the risk he poses.

Rosenqvist said before the hearing that she could “not detect great changes in Breivik’s functioning,” since his criminal trial when he bragged about the scale of his slaughter, or his 2016human rights case in 2016, when he raised his hand in a Nazi salute.

“In principle and practice someone seeking parole would have to show remorse, and to show that they understand why such acts cannot be repeated,” she said.

The court that convicted him in 2012 found him criminally sane, rejecting the prosecution’s view that he was psychotic. Breivik did not appeal his sentence.

Agencies contributed to this article

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