SKIEN, Norway – Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in bomb-and-gun attacks in 2011, told a court Wednesday that the government is trying to kill him by holding him in isolation but that his Nazi ideology has helped him survive thus far.
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The 37-year-old right-wing extremist has sued the government, saying his prison conditions are “inhuman” and violate the European Convention on Human Rights. The government disagrees, noting Breivik has access to three cells and the right to receive visitors and communication with the outside world – except for other extremists who could be inspired by his “poisonous” ideology.
“It would have been more humane to shoot me than to treat me like an animal,” Breivik told a court hearing held in the gym of Skien prison, where the trial is being held for security reasons.
Breivik was convicted of terrorism and mass murder for his attacks on July 22, 2011. He killed eight people with a car bomb in Oslo’s government district and 69, mostly teenagers, in a shooting massacre at a summer camp for left-wing youth activists on Utoya island.
He was sentenced to a 21-year term, Norway’s maximum sentence, which can be extended for as long as he’s considered a danger to society, most likely for the rest of his life.
Entering the court Wednesday, Breivik didn’t repeat the Nazi salute he had used on the first day of the trial, but described himself as a die-hard national socialist as he read from a prepared statement.
He accused the government of trying to drive him to suicide by keeping him isolated from other prisoners and stopping his mail correspondence with sympathizers. He said he drew strength from principles he had learned from Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf.”
“Those principles are the only reasons that I am alive today,” Breivik said.
Except for prison staff, health personnel and others visiting him in a professional capacity, Breivik said the only person he’s met in prison is his mother, who has since died.
Government lawyers said Tuesday that he’s allowed to receive visitors, but that there were few requests to see him, except by other right-wing extremists. Breivik said the isolation is making him apathetic and depressed, giving him headaches and difficulty sleeping.
“I don’t think most people would have survived as long as I have,” he said.
The government says Breivik is being treated with dignity and respect despite the severity of his crimes. It says all restrictions on his contacts with others are for his own safety and to ensure he doesn’t use his prison time to build extremist networks.
Later Wednesday, court officials were set to visit Breivik’s cells in the high-security section of Skien prison. The trial is set to end Friday.