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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - OSLO: A tearful Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in 2011, on Tuesday accused Norway of trying to “push (him) to suicide” with strict prison conditions, while authorities insisted he remained extremely violent.
“I have the impression that the government’s aim is to try to push me to suicide,” Breivik said on the second day of a court hearing in the lawsuit he has brought against the Norwegian state over his prison conditions.
“They are close to succeeding. I don’t think I will manage to survive much longer without human relations,” the 44-year-old told the court, convened for security reasons in the gymnasium of Ringerike prison where he is serving his sentence.
Held apart from other inmates in high-security facilities for almost 12 years, Breivik claims his extended isolation is a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “inhuman” and “degrading” treatment.
The lawyer representing the state, Andreas Hjetland, defended Breivik’s conditions — which are strict but comfortable — as warranted since he still poses “an absolutely extreme risk of totally unbridled violence.”
On July 22, 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.
At one point during his testimony on Tuesday, Breivik, who takes anti-depressants, broke down in sobs.
“I understand that... revenge is important and that a lot of people hate me. But I’m still a human being,” he said.
He claimed he had distanced himself from his crimes — which he attributed to his “vulnerability” to radicalization — and said he thought of suicide “every day.”
Breivik has apologized in the past and showed no remorse on other occasions.
His testimony left families of the victims unmoved.
“He cries when he feels sorry for himself but when he says he’s sorry for what he did, he’s cold and cynical. I don’t believe him for a second,” 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.
During Tuesday’s proceedings it emerged that Breivik tried to kill himself in 2020 by hanging himself with a towel, but made sure to inform prison guards first, the state’s lawyers noted.
In 2018, he also launched a disobedience campaign, drawing symbols such as swastikas with his feces, shouting “Sieg Heil” and undertaking a hunger strike.
“Breivik represents the same danger today as on July 21, 2011,” the eve of the twin attacks he prepared meticulously for years, Hjetland said.
He cited assessments by psychiatrists and prison wardens which suggest that Breivik remains dangerous and still believes his attacks were justified.
Asked once how he felt about having killed children on Utoya, he responded that in extreme-right circles the belief is that “if you’re old enough to be politically active, you’re old enough to be the target of terrorism.”
At 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.
But Breivik’s lawyer Oystein Storrvik insists Norwegian authorities have not put sufficient measures in place to compensate for his relative isolation.
His human interactions are mostly limited to contacts with professionals such as wardens, lawyers and a chaplain.
“There is still no indication suggesting any (psychological) suffering linked to his isolation or that he is suicidal,” argued another lawyer for the state, Kristoffer Nerland.
Breivik enjoys “a wide range of activities,” he said, including cooking, video games, walks, basketball and studies.
Citing another article of the Convention on Human Rights that guarantees the right to correspondence, Breivik has also asked for an easing of his mail restrictions.
In 2016, Breivik sued the Norwegian state on the same grounds, with a lower court ruling in his favor before higher courts found in the state’s favor.
In 2018, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed his case as “inadmissible.”
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