“Please, don’t let me see any messages of hatred, wishes for the death penalty, anything like that. If anyone should be of the belief that anything will improve by murdering this sad little person, they would be profoundly wrong.” —Tore Sinding Bekkedal, Utøya shooting survivor
Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year-old man claiming responsibility for the twin terror attacks in Oslo and Utøya on Friday wants to tell the world why he killed 76 people in two separate incidents. But on Monday (local Norway time), a judge ruled his custody hearing will be closed to the public and Breivik will have to wait for his self-induced day of glory.
During the custody ruling, Breivik pled not guilty, and told police his actions were “atrocious but necessary” despite his admission. Norwegians packed Oslo’s Cathedral Square for a minute of silence that swelled to five minutes during the ruling. Breivik’s desire to have a platform to express his views has been met with fierce opposition from the public. Even though Norwegians value the freedom of expression, most feel like Breivik lost that right when he committed his acts of terrorism.
Breivik reportedly told police he intended to target Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister who led three Labour governments and was often referred to as “mother of the nation.” Brundtland gave a speech there on Friday, but she left before Breivik reached the island.
Breivik will be detained for eight weeks in solitary confinement with no access to news, letters or visitors, with the exception being his lawyer. His custody, however, can be extended indefinitely before his trial on terrorism charges begins, which most think won’t happen for a year. Breivik could spend the rest of his life in prison — or he could be out by 2021. Under Norwegian law, the maximum jail sentence is 21 years.
One of the biggest pieces of this puzzle in understanding the 32-year-old Breivik is the publication of a 1,500-page manifesto titled, “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.” The essence of the manifesto is his desire to save Europe from the perceived threats of Islam, immigration and multi-culturalism. The manifesto, which oddly enough plagiarizes parts of Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto, refers to a “Plan B,” that has now been understood by authorities to be Friday’s attacks.
Breivik began organizing Plan B in 2009 as a means to draw attention to his writings, which took nearly a decade to complete. Perhaps most interesting is the influence by anti-Islam American blogger Robert Spencer, whose writings were quoted 64 times by Breivik.
Spencer was quick to denounce the attacks, writing on his blog that the killing of children does nothing to aid in “the defense against the global jihad” and that is something he would never advocate, The New York Times reports.
Ironically, it was Breivik, a native-born Norwegian who committed the country’s worst terrorist attack. His actions, contrary to his hope, have toned down the anti-immigration rhetoric in Norway ahead of the September local elections.
Reuters reports that immigrant numbers have nearly tripled between 1995 and 2010 to almost half a million in the country. Many, not just Breivik and those of the right-wing, were angry with the perceived welfare given to immigrants. That anger spurred the growth of the Progress Party, which became the second biggest in parliament after the 2009 election on a largely anti-immigration platform.
National Police Chief Sponheim told reporters Breivik’s motive remains unclear, but that investigators were studying his manifesto for clues. Sponheim further said that Breivik was was cooperating, and that “the dialogue between him and police has been good.”
A memorial service for the victims of the attacks was held in Oslo Cathedral on Sunday afternoon. It was attended by the King and Queen of Norway, as well as Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. King Harald V was spotted openly weeping during the service and during the memorial address, Prime Minister Stoltenberg said something intriguing: “Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.”
If the underlying problem and tension was caused by anti-immigration rhetoric and sentiment, than more democracy, openness and humanity are soothing words.
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