Lawyers say Breivik tried to contact Aryan Brotherhood, neo-Nazis
Anders Behring Breivik has his handcuffs removed after entering the courtroom in Skien, Norway, on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. (Lise Aserud / NTB scanpix)
Karl Ritter, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, March 15, 2016 3:47AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 15, 2016 3:24PM EDT
SKIEN, Norway -- Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in bomb-and-gun massacres in Norway, has tried to establish contacts with the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang in the U.S. and neo-Nazis in Russia, government lawyers told a court Tuesday, defending the restrictions he faces in solitary confinement.
Breivik, 37, has sued the government for human rights violations, saying it is "inhuman" to keep him isolated from other prisoners and prevent him from sending and receiving letters to sympathizers.
For security reasons, the case is being tried in the gym of the Skien prison where he is serving a 21-year-sentence, which can be extended for the rest of his life, for the 2011 attacks.
Government lawyers said Breivik, who made a Nazi salute as he entered the courtroom, remains a dangerous extremist who must be stopped from using his prison time to spread his "poisonous" ideology to sympathizers in and outside of prison.
"Among them there could be a new Breivik," said Adele Matheson Mestad, an attorney representing the government.
Breivik is the only inmate in a high-security wing of Skien prison, 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of Oslo. He has three cells at his disposal, one for sleeping, one for studying and one for working out, and daily access to an exercise yard.
While Breivik's complaint includes allegations of degrading treatment, such as frequent use of nude body searches, a core part of his case is focused on his inability to communicate with whom he wants.
"Like anyone else he is primarily interested in speaking to people who agree with him, rather than those who don't agree with him," his lawyer, Ostein Storrvik, told The Associated Press.
The government says prison officials have registered 4,000 letters sent by Breivik or addressed to him. Of those, 600 were stopped, Mestad said in her opening remarks. She said they included letters Breivik wrote to imprisoned white supremacists, including Aryan Brotherhood members Barry Mills, Thomas Silverstein and Tyler Bingham, and a letter sent to Breivik by a Russian neo-Nazi convicted of terrorism.
"It's important not to allow him to network with other criminals in other prisons around the world," Mestad said, after calling Breivik the "worst terrorist and killer of our time."
In violence that stunned Norway on July 22, 2011, Breivik set off a bomb in Oslo's government district and then carried out a shooting massacre at the summer camp of the left-wing Labor Party's youth organization on Utoya island. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum under Norwegian law, but his term can be extended as long as he's considered a danger to society.
Many survivors and families of victims were trying to ignore the new trial, fearing it could reopen emotional wounds and give Breivik the attention he apparently desires. Still, some watched a retransmission of the proceedings from a courthouse in Oslo.
"It's pathetic. It's a farce," said Lisbeth Royneland, whose 18-year-old daughter, Synne, was killed in Breivik's shooting massacre. She now heads a support group for survivors and the bereaved.
The government says Breivik can play video games, watch TV and read newspapers in prison. He has an electronic typewriter and regular contacts with prison staff, his lawyers, a priest and health personnel. But Storrvik told the court Breivk should be allowed to see people who aren't there in a professional role.
"Guards, lawyers and health care personnel all have legal and ethical obligations that keep them from building relationships," he said.
Government attorney Marius Emberland said prison officials are trying to mitigate Breivik's isolation by having him take part in activities with prison staff such as playing chess. Breivik has declined many of those offers, though he did build a gingerbread house as part of a prison competition, he said.
Norwegian authorities, who take pride in having a humanitarian prison system, say the restrictions imposed on Breivik are well within the European Convention on Human Rights. Still, they stress that he has the same rights as any other inmate to challenge his imprisonment conditions.
"He is a citizen of Norway and even though he is convicted for a horrible crime, he hasn't lost his human rights," said Ina Stromstad, a judge serving as a spokeswoman for the Olso district court.
AP video journalist David Keyton in Oslo contributed to this report.