Norway slightly eases mass killer Breivik's jail isolation

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 21, 2016 7:20 AM

By Alister Doyle and Stine Jacobsen

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway has slightly relaxed the jail isolation of mass killer Anders Behring Breivik since an April court ruling that it had violated his human rights by keeping him in a "locked world", legal documents showed on Wednesday.

The Norwegian state, preparing an appeal against the ruling starting on Jan. 10, said Breivik's still-draconian jail conditions were fully justified. The right-wing militant killed 77 people in shootings and a bombing in July 2011.

The April ruling that Norway violated Breivik's human rights by keeping him isolated stunned survivors and relatives of the dead. In court, he said he was feeling bad in jail despite a three-room cell, complained about cold coffee and grumbled that jail food was "worse than waterboarding".

Documents released on Wednesday showed that some conditions for Breivik have been relaxed, including that he no longer must speak to his lawyer through a glass wall. NRK public television said floor-to-ceiling bars had been installed.

"This has eased contact somewhat but he is still cut off from receiving visits from lawyers in a normal way in a visitors' room," Breivik's lawyer Oeystein Storrvik wrote in the documents. "The overall pressure of isolation has ... been maintained," he wrote.

Breivik has been isolated for 5-1/2 years with no contact with other prisoners and restrictions on his letters, he wrote. Breivik's mother was the only family member to have any contact, giving her son a hug in 2013 shortly before she died of cancer.

Norwegian Attorney General Fredrik Sejersted said the state was continuously revising restrictions on Breivik, and said that any recent changes were not prompted by the court ruling.

"Our view is that the conditions of Breivik's detention are well within practices permitted by the European Court of Human Rights," he told Reuters.

He said the state did not agree that Breivik was kept in "isolation", arguing he has contact with others even though they are professionals including guards, lawyers and health workers.

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Among recent changes were to allow Breivik more contact with a "visitor friend" from a local church, more physical training and more time outdoors. Still, Sejersted said that Breivik had rejected many offers of social activity.

In the court papers, Sejersted accused the lower court of "setting the bar too low" in April by ruling that the Norwegian state had violated a ban on "inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment" under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Breivik is serving a 21-year sentence, Norway's longest, but can be extended if he is still considered a threat.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Mark Heinrich)