Norway's government is appealing a ruling saying it has violated mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik's human rights. His biographer, meanwhile, says he is manipulating his public image from prison.
Before the Nice and Berlin truck attacks, there was Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian neo-Nazi who killed 77 people in 2011 in what was then the deadliest "lone wolf" attack Europe had seen. Breivik set off a car bomb near government buildings in downtown Oslo in July of that year and then, dressed as a police officer, shot dead dozens of young people at a political gathering on the island of Utoya because he resented their platform of social inclusiveness.
When he was sentenced in 2012, Breivik said his only regret was that he hadn't been able to kill more people. Now he wants Norwegian prison guards to be nicer to him, to make sure he has sweets and adult-themed video games and to allow him to spread his increasingly right-wing views to others.
After his 2012 trial, Breivik got the harshest sentence a Norwegian court can hand down - 21 years in prison, renewable if he is deemed a continuing threat. He has given the stiff right-arm Nazi salute virtually every time he's been seen in public since the attacks, including Tuesday as he appeared in court while the Norwegian government fights back against a ruling that it's being too tough on him.
For Breivik, who's been medically assessed as sane but suffering from extreme narcissism, perhaps the most difficult part of his sentence is having his social interactions limited. His solitary confinement, he believes, is a violation of his basic human rights, and in a ruling that shocked Norway, the Oslo District Court agreed with Breivik last year. The court ruled that the government was placing security precautions above human rights to such an extent that Breivik's treatment was "inhuman and degrading" - illegal according to the European Convention on Human Rights.
One man who survived the shooting spree on Utoya, Bjorn Ihler, supported the ruling as welcome proof his government is still exhibiting the tolerance Breivik himself hates. "That the court rules [in] Breivik's favour is a sign we have a working court system," Ihler tweeted, "respecting human rights even under extreme conditions."
But an investigative journalist who has written a book about Breivik says the Oslo judge made a bad decision based on incomplete information. Asne Seierstad, author of "One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway", scoffs at his claims that he is being kept in virtual lockdown in his three-cell accommodation.
Seierstad told DW that, contrary to Breivik's claims as they appear in English-language media, he is allowed to receive any visitors who do not share his violent views but doesn't want to. In fact, she said, Breivik's father tried to visit him but dropped the idea after Breivik demanded he first publicly declare himself a neo-Nazi. He had a penpal girlfriend, she said, with whom he spoke with frequently on the phone but ended the relationship, Seierstad presumes, so that he could present himself as being completely isolated. She has received letters from Breivik but he refused her requests to meet in person as she wrote the book.
Seierstad believes Breivik unquestionably remains a danger to society. "He will never repent," she said, adding that she doesn't think Norwegian authorities will ever let him out of prison either, though after 21 years his case will need to be reviewed every five years.
For now, the Norwegian government is fighting to have last year's ruling rescinded and to reaffirm that Breivik should not have access to the internet. He has intensified his political ambitions inside the prison, formally declaring himself a devotee of Nazism, according to his attorney, and the government insists it needs to maintain the wall between Breivik and those he could perhaps convince to stage further anti-immigrant attacks outside the prison.
Journalist and commentator Per Anders Madsen of the Norwegian daily "Aftenposten" warned in an op-ed that Breivik should be kept closed off from the world, suggesting it's not even possible to over-emphasize security in the case. Madsen pointed out that during the months of preparation for the attacks, Breivik "displayed a unique ability to hide his intentions and act covertly." He also noted that, in the manifesto Breivik wrote and then distributed online just hours before he set off the car bomb, he predicted his own imprisonment and planned to "exploit the propaganda effect" of the murders.