After 10 agonizing weeks the trial of Anders Breivik trial has finally ended in Norway with a walkout by families of victims in protest at his attempts to justify the massacre of 77 people on July 22nd last year.
Prosecution lawyers have called on the judges to declare Breivik insane and force him to be treated in a secure psychiatric unit. Breivik’s defence team has been fighting tooth and nail to establish his sanity, though he’ll face Norway’s maximum prison sentence. Norway’s judges will give their verdict on August 24th. Whatever they decide, the implications will be far-reaching.
Ruling Breivik “sane” will not go down well in Norway. Such a judgment would imply that we are all to some extent capable of evil, and could spur Norway towards harsher sentences and a less forgiving attitude towards prisoners. This would also play into Breivik’s hands, since he hates Norway’s peace-loving liberal ideology.
Many Norwegians are already baying for Breivik’s blood and asking why the police didn’t just shoot him. An opinion poll conducted this week for Norwegian state broadcaster NRK showed that three quarters of Norwegians believe Breivik should be declared sane.
If he is, it could challenge the legitimacy of Norway’s soft-touch correctional system where the normal maximum prison sentence is just 21 years. Norwegians are already questioning the system, as Latitude News reported June 22nd.
A three-year rotation
If the judges declare Breivik insane on August 24th, Norway will dodge that hurdle, but perhaps only temporarily. According to Ansa Attari, an NRK journalist, if Breivik is hospitalised his case would have to be reviewed every three years, giving his lawyers regular opportunities to apply for his release.
Does this mean Breivik could one day walk free?
“There are so many unknowns in this case,” says Attari, “but the major national consensus is that Breivik must never be allowed back into society. There are people out there who want to kill him.”
The Norwegian prison system is steadfast in wanting to reform him. Ila jail, where Breivik is currently being held, has recently advertised for volunteers to keep him company and play games, such as indoor hockey and chess, to stop Breivik from feeling lonely in his isolation cell.