As Fjordman and Dymphna pointed out the other day, next week’s trial of Anders Behring Breivik is shaping up to be an entertainment extravaganza, the likes of which have never before been seen in Norway.
We’re not the only people who have noticed the likely characteristics of this spectacle — the families of the victims are also expecting a “circus”. According to The Telegraph:
As final preparations are made for trial of Anders Behring Breivik, Norway families fear it could become a circus
The man accused of mass murder in Norway last year has called a bizarre array of expert witnesses and threatens to use his trial to spread his poisonous ideas.
For months now, the Bjorkavag family of Alesund have been dreading the start of a trial that few Norwegians really want.
There is no doubt who was responsible for killing their son, Sverre Bjorkavag, and 76 others last July, most of them young people barely out of childhood. Almost every detail of that terrible day, 22/7 as Norwegians now call it, has been endlessly pored over and retold; the car bomb in central Oslo, the slaughter of young people at their summer camp on Utoya island, and the incompetence of the police and security services, before, during and afterwards.
Yet on Monday in Oslo’s main criminal court, and for the next ten weeks, Anders Behring Breivik will glory in the chance to justify his killing spree, while his every flourish, gesture and smirk will be followed by the media in Norway and in the world in forensic detail.
“We are worried that it will be a circus,” said Sverre’s father Bjarte, a civil servant who lives with his wife Torild Flate, a primary school teacher. Their 28-year old son is buried in the family graveyard within view of their home, which overlooks a fjord with snow-covered mountains behind. They do not think the forthcoming trial will help the grieving process. In fact they cannot wait to get it behind them.
“There is no need to know why he did it,” said Mr Bjorkavag. “We know that already — madness. What we do want to get out of this trial is justice.”
Now, just like eight months ago, it is noticeable that they still cannot bring themselves to mention Breivik by name. As Mr Bjorkavag puts it: “We have no feeling towards that person. He is a man who destroyed so many lives, as well as his own.”
For the Bjorkavag family, and dozens of other families across Norway who lost sons and daughters, the quest for justice in the weeks ahead is likely to open as many wounds as it heals. Instead of just laying bare Breivik’s crimes, the trial appears likely to give the self-styled “Knight Templar” the opportunity he craves to justify his atrocities as necessary to “save” Europe from Islam. In Breivik’s twisted mind, he was a hero, killing traitors from the Norwegian Labour party who had opened his homeland to immigration, and firing the first shots in a war against Islamic invasion.
To help him explain all this, Breivik has called a bizarre series of expert witnesses, many of them from the fringes of Norway’s political life — old Nazis, a notorious Islamist who met Osama bin Laden, an anarchist, a gay rights activist who has warned of intolerant Islam, and extreme left-wingers. He has also called a series of more mainstream writers, academics and politicians, many of whom have written about multiculturalism in Norway.
The list of witnesses has expanded to include even more “Islamophobes”, including at least one more writer whose work has appeared on this blog — Hanne Nabintu Herland:
Hanne Nabintu Herland, a best-selling Norwegian author, thinks she was called as a witness because some of her books have been critical of Norway’s stifling culture of political correctness.
“I don’t really know what they want me to speak about in the trial,” she said, adding that she did not want to attend but had to in law.
“This lunatic said he was defending European values and then killed a load of defenceless people.” At least one other witness, an anti-racism campaigner, has said he will refuse to show up, even if that means he has to go to jail.
Interestingly enough, none of Breivik’s overseas “mentors” have been called as witnesses:
There was speculation that some of the British writers and Far-Right figures who Breivik claimed inspiration from would be called to the trial, but so far that has not happened, probably because the court cannot compel them to attend.
Apparently the defense won’t bother to call “experts” whose attendance cannot be compelled under Norwegian law. In other words, this farce can only be maintained with the assistance of Norway’s Soviet-style legal rules.
Ms Herland believes that neither the massacre, nor the trial, have been dealt with competently, mainly because safe little Norway has been unable to cope with the terrible reality of what Breivik did.
“I think Norway has been traumatised in a serious way by what has happened,” she said. “We will be for years.”
The trial will be the biggest in Norwegian legal history, costing an estimated 97 million krone (£10.5 million). Places are reserved for 200 journalists in the bright, modern courtroom in the centre of Oslo, less than five minutes walk away from where Breivik’s car bomb went off.
The accused will get his chance to explain his actions, although whether his testimony from the dock is broadcast to the world will depend on a ruling by Norway’s Supreme Court expected on Monday. Some Norwegians believe that broadcasting him will expose his ideas as laughable: others fear that extremists and the mentally ill may be inspired by his rants for years to come if it ends up on YouTube.
Breivik will not be able to speak to witnesses from the dock, but he will be allowed to question them via his lawyers.
Pay attention to this little gem from Geir Lippestad, the head of Breivik’s crack legal team (the bald-headed fellow in the gigantic clown shoes in the picture at the top of this post):
Adding to the sense of unreality surrounding the trial before it has even begun, Breivik’s lawyer, Geir Lippestad, a father of eight and himself a member of the Norwegian Labour Party, told Time magazine: “I feel I have lost my soul in this case. I hope I get it back afterwards.”
I quoted his remarks to Dymphna, and she snorted: “What soul?”
Good point. He is a lawyer, after all.
Most Norwegians are thoroughly sick of hearing his name. “They should just lock him up and forget him,” said one man in a café as he pored over a newspaper with a photograph of Breivik on the front page. There have even been a few calls for his execution, almost unheard of before in liberal Norway.
Many of the survivors of Utoya island are deeply worried that the trial could give Breivik an opportunity to grandstand.
Eric Kursetgjerde, 18, a high school student who survived the shooting spree, said: “What concerns me the most is that Right-wing extremists, many in Germany and France, see him as some kind of hero. Sometimes you see expressions of support for him on blogs and on Facebook, not usually people who support him 100 per cent but there are those who think he had a point.”
In pre-trial hearings, the defendant has actually looked far from heroic, according to one lawyer who has observed him. “When you see him in court you realise he is not a tough guy at all,” said Brynjar Nielsen Meling.
“He fiddles with his clothes, his eyes dart around. He has no charisma and he looks anxious all the time. He looks like the weakest boy in class. I wonder if he will be able to manage the pressure of a ten week trial.”
The prospect of attending the trial is a forbidding one for the Bjorkavag family, but they have decided that they must, probably on May 10 when their son’s murder will be dealt with. Each fatality is being dealt with one by one.
They are angry about his witness list — “just to get him publicity,” said Mrs Flate — and have no doubt that Breivik should go to hospital, not prison. “We would hope that he can be helped, and perhaps one day understand what he has done and have to live with it,” she said. “You can tell that he doesn’t now. His eyes are cold.”
One of the most controversial aspects of the massacre, that they refuse to discuss, is the performance of the police. When The Sunday Telegraph last met the family, Norway was united in grief, and nobody thought of apportioning blame to anyone except one man.
Now it is clear that there were a series of avoidable disasters: there was no helicopter to fly armed police to the island when the shooting started; nearly all Oslo’s police were unavailable because they were on holiday on July 22; a police telephone operator failed to accept Breivik’s “surrender”; and for three hours after Breivik’s car bomb narrowly missed killing government ministers in central Oslo, the prime minister had no security . The city was apparently considered so safe that it was normal for him to have no secret service protection on duty.
The head of the intelligence service, which was fixated on the Islamic threat and virtually ignored Right-wingers, has been forced to resign.
The curtain will be rung up on this farce next Monday. God help Norway between now and July.
I’m glad I don’t understand Norwegian, because I’d feel compelled to read and watch all the coverage. Can you imagine how unutterably dreary that would be?
As it is, we have all our Viking correspondents to filter the news and select only the important parts for us. And thank goodness for that.
Hat tip: Steen.