Mass killer Breivik sues Norway in bid to end prison isolation

OSLO – Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right fanatic who killed 77 people in a bombing and shooting rampage in Norway in 2011, will ask a court on Monday to end his isolation in prison, saying it violates his human rights.

The 44-year-old, who emailed out copies of a manifesto before his attacks setting out his theories, is also suing the state in a bid to lift restrictions on his correspondence with the outside world.

Breivik killed eight people with a car bomb in Oslo then gunned down 69 others, most of them teenagers, at a Labour Party youth camp in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity.

His case has been a grim test for a country that is still shaken to its core by the horror of his acts but has also long taken pride in the rehabilitation efforts of its justice system.

Breivik spends his time in a section of Ringerike high-security prison, 70km (40 miles) northwest of Oslo – the third prison where he has been held.

His dedicated area includes a training room, a kitchen, a TV room and a bathroom, pictures from a visit last month by news agency NTB showed. He is allowed to keep three budgerigars as pets who fly freely in the area, NTB reported.

More than a decade in isolation “without meaningful interaction” has had a devastating impact, Breivik’s lawyer wrote in a filing to Oslo district court.

“He is now suicidal,” Oeystein Storrvik added. “He is now dependent on the depression medicine Prozac to get through the days in prison.”

Lawyers representing the justice ministry say Breivik must be kept apart the rest of the prison population because of the continuing security threat he poses.

They said in their court filing his isolation was “relative” given he has contacts with guards, a priest, health professionals and, until recently, an outside volunteer whom Breivik no longer wishes to see.

He also sees two inmates for an hour every other week.

Control over Breivik’s contacts with the outside world is justified by the risk that will inspire others to commit violent acts, the lawyers argue.

“Specifically, this applies to contacts with far-right circles, including people who wish to establish contact with Breivik as a result of the terrorist acts on 22 July 2011,” they said in the filing.

Breivik was cited as an inspiration by Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019.

Breivik serving a 21-year sentence – the longest a Norwegian court can impose – which can be extended for as long as he is deemed a threat to society.

“What is unique is how long he has been in isolation,” said Knut Mellingsaeter Soerensen, an associate professor at the Norwegian Police University College and author of a doctorate on Breivik’s conditions at his first prison from 2011-2013.

“The challenge, with a person who has shown the intention and the capacity to commit a terrorist attack, and to plan it over a long time, is when do you lighten security measures so you can actually have contacts with other inmates?”

Breivik also sued the state in 2016, arguing it was breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, including sections saying no one should be subject to “torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

He initially won the case but that was overturned on appeal a year later before any restrictions were lifted.

Monday’s hearing will be held in the gymnasium of the prison, set on the shore of the Tyrifjorden lake, where the island of Utoeya, the site of Breivik’s shooting spree, lies.

The judge’s verdict – there is no jury – will be issued in coming weeks. REUTERS

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