Norway's worst mass killer is suing the Norwegian state for allegedly breaching his rights
Testifying in court, he compared himself to Nelson Mandela
The state's legal team argues the measures in place are appropriate and proportionate
Far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik compared himself to anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela as he gave testimony in his lawsuit against the Norwegian state Wednesday.
Breivik, an ultranationalist who boasted of killing his victims to prevent the “Islamization” of his country, said the difference between himself and the revered South African statesman was that Mandela “ordered action,” while he had been the one to “carry out the action.”
The 37-year-old, who killed 77 people in a shooting rampage and bombing attack in 2011, is suing Norway over his treatment behind bars, alleging that it is a “sadistic” attempt by Norwegian authorities to kill him, and that it is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The mass killer’s complaint centers mainly on his isolation in jail. Since his arrest, he has been separated from other inmates, and virtually his only visits have been with professionals, who meet with him separated behind a glass screen.
His incoming and outgoing mail is also censored to prevent him from building far-right networks and inciting sympathizers to violence.
Breivik’s killing spree on July 22, 2011, was the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II. Eight people were killed when a bomb he planted detonated in Oslo, before he methodically shot to death 69 young people at a Labor Party youth camp, a party he blamed for the rise of multiculturalism in Norway.
Breivik: Prison food ‘worse than waterboarding’
Addressing the court for the first time Wednesday, Breivik listed his complaints about his treatment, drawing scoffs from those in court when he complained about the quality of prison food.
His gripes included that he had to use plastic cutlery, had not been given an insulated container to keep his coffee warm, and was served microwaveable TV dinners up to four times a day, sometimes the same meal two days running.
This type of treatment was “worse than waterboarding,” he said.
The state’s legal team says that the restrictions on the killer are appropriate and proportionate, given the seriousness of his crimes, and that they do not breach his human rights.
Breivik repeatedly accused the state of attempting to drive him to his death by holding him in isolation, saying it would be “more humane to shoot me than to treat me like an animal as they have done over the past five years.”
His sustained isolation has led to sleeping problems, a hypersensitivity to smells and an inability to concentrate, he said.
Breivik claims his treatment is in breach of two clauses of the European Convention on Human Rights, one prohibiting “inhuman or degrading treatment” and another guaranteeing a right to “private and family life” and correspondence.
Nazi sympathies on display
Describing his occupation as “party secretary of political party The Nordic State,” Breivik said he was only surviving the “torture” of isolation because of principles learned from Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
“These principles are the only reason I am alive today,” he said.
He said he should be given the right to publish two books he had written, called “The Breivik Diaries” and “The Nordic State,” arguing he was the only inmate denied the right to publish.
He also called on the state to permit him access to a small circle of friends and a wife, all of whom shared his political values. He said he planned to marry a woman, but authorities had blocked him from sending the marriage certificate.
He also told the court he would spend his life committed to political activism but would never use violence again, and he said “national socialism” must be a part of Norway’s democracy.
A dangerous platform for a mass killer?
Critics, including survivors of his attack, have expressed concern that Breivik would use his court appearance as a platform to publicize his extremist ideology.
Breivik had “achieved exactly what he wanted” through pursuing the lawsuit, survivor Viljar Hanssen tweeted Monday, although he added that he was happy to live in a country where the law applied to all.
On entering the courtroom Tuesday, Breivik, who now sports a closely shaved head, gave a Nazi salute.
Following a request from Judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic at the end of the day’s proceedings, he did not repeat the gesture Wednesday.
The lawsuit is the first time Breivik has been seen by the public since his criminal case.
While the proceedings are being broadcast on Norwegian television, Breivik’s testimony was not aired out of respect for the victims.
Psychiatrist: No sign of ‘isolation damage’
Following Breivik’s appearance, the court heard from witness Randi Rosenqvist, a psychiatrist who had previously evaluated risks associated with the mass killer’s confinement.
She said that contrary to Breivik’s claims, she had not seen any evidence of him having been damaged by his isolation, in terms of trouble eating or sleeping, or feelings of apathy.
Asked about his complaints of suffering an “isolation headache,” she responded that Breivik should “take a tablet and drink water,” saying she herself often suffered headaches because of her work.
She had evaluated Breivik’s risk of committing violence on himself or others as low, provided that he was getting attention for his cause and believed he could establish an ultranationalist movement.
But she feared he could become very dangerous if he felt that the attention had dried up, and felt obliged to carry out new actions to gain attention for his political cause.
She recommended he engage in more social activity, and she felt that the glass screen separating him from visitors was unnecessary because of the low risk of violence.
In response to a question from the judge, she said she was not currently involved in assessing Breivik, as he had refused to meet with her, and he was being seen by other staff instead.
State: Punishment is proportionate
On the first day of the case, lawyers for the state pointed out that Breivik had access to three cells in prison, a television, a computer without Internet access and a PlayStation gaming console.
They say that he remains a very dangerous man – a mass killer who was methodical, rational, and who had shown no regret for his actions – and that his communications have been restricted because of well-founded fears that he could inspire others to acts of violence.
Of a total of 4,000 letters sent to or by Breivik, about 600 had been blocked by prison authorities, lawyers said. Some were sent to or by far-right sympathizers, and others were addressed to other prison inmates, in an attempt to establish “brotherhoods” in prisons.
In his 1,500 page anti-Islam, anti-liberal political manifesto, called “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” Breivik wrote that prisons were an ideal venue to recruit followers to his political cause – all the more reason to be legitimately concerned about his networking efforts, lawyers argued.
Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison in 2012 – the maximum possible sentence under Norwegian law, but one that could be extended if he is considered to still pose a threat to society.
Because of security considerations, proceedings in the suit are being heard inside a gymnasium at Skien prison, which has been temporarily converted into a courtroom.