Anders Breivik Receives Maximum Sentence for Mass Killing in Norway

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I am Marco Werman; this is The World. It happened again here in the U.S. — a shooter opening fire in the middle of a crowd. Today, it was outside the Empire State Building in New York. A man killed a former colleague before being fatally shot himself by the police. Several passersby were wounded in the firefight. Sadly, this is not the first time this summer that Americans are confronted with the aftermath of a deadly shooting. First, there was the shooting rampage inside a Colorado movie theater and then the killings outside a Sheik temple in Wisconsin. By contrast, gun crimes like these are rare elsewhere in the world, which is why Norway was so traumatized by the massive bombing and shooting rampage carried out by far-right extremist Anders Breivik 13 months ago. Seventy-seven people were killed then, most of them teenagers attending a summer camp. Since then, Norwegians have been haunted by Breivik's trial and sentencing. Today, that legal process concluded. Breivik received the maximum sentence for his crimes under Norwegian law — 21 years in prison. Now, that might seem lenient by American standards and, in a moment, we'll hear more about that and the prison conditions Breivik is likely to face. First though, we hear from Christin Bjelland, Vice-Chair of the group representing survivors and the families of those affected by the attacks in July of last year. She doesn't think, despite the sentence, that Breivik will ever be released.

Christin Bjelland: It's absolutely the verdict that many of our members wanted. We had two main goals and point No. 1 was that he would never come out into society again and the second thing that we wanted was that we wanted the verdict to be unanimous and all 5 judges agreed, so that sort of makes it even stronger.

Werman: And yet, in 21 years there is the possibility that he could be released.

Bjelland: Breivik is dangerous for the rest of his life. I mean, the ideas he's revealing and what he's done is so horrible that we are quite confident that he will never be let out.

Werman: Well, in a moment we'll be speaking with an expert at the University of Oslo about the Norwegian prison system which, as you know, is geared towards rehabilitation rather than punishment. I mean, doesn't that mean that there will be a recurring problem for the families like you as you try to cope with this aftermath? I mean, there will be constant monitoring as to whether he's been officially rehabilitated or not.

Bjelland: There is the possibility that he can get out, but when you look at what this person has done to so many people, there is just no way that he will ever come out, whatever the theory and the law says.

Werman: This might seem like an end to the case even though there is this possibility for release in 21 years, but what happens now for those people affected by what happened last year?

Bjelland: Well, what we hope for is that we can carry on with our everyday lives because it's been a horrible year. First of all, of course the 22nd of July, but then we had a 10-week trial that was quite strained on all those people who were affected and also the rest of the population, and now we've been waiting for 2 months for the verdict. So, we hope that things will calm down a little bit more now.

Werman: Obviously, being in isolation, he doesn't get a voice anymore; that must come as some consolation to you.

Bjelland: Yes, but that's our task as well, both as media and as public, that if he wants to publish his poisonous thoughts in any way we have to make sure that we don't buy it, we don't listen to it, we don't let him spread his poison.

Werman: Does he have that opportunity from prison? I mean, he doesn't have any internet connection.

Bjelland: No, and we hope that it's gonna stay that way.

Werman: Is there any ban on inmates in Norway writing books and publishing them through traditional publishing?

Bjelland: Well, I'm sure there are but I'm a mother and that's my main cause. So, you have to ask the experts. What we feel is that the support group is going to continue working for the best of all our members and this is of course one issue that we will follow up.

Werman: As you say, you are a mother. It was your teenage son who was on Utoya Island when the shooting happened. Is he doing okay?

Bjelland: He's doing fine, actually. He followed the advice from those in the health authorities and the support group to follow as little as possible of the trial so he has, actually, not seen anything. He has gone to school and led a normal everyday life and that's what we hope that we'll all do in the end.

Werman: Christin Bjelland, thank you very much.

Bjelland: You're welcome.