OSLO: A Norwegian court will on Tuesday examine the state's appeal against a ruling that right-wing extremist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has been treated inhumanely since being jailed for killing 77 people nearly six years ago.
A lower court made waves in April when it found that Breivik's human rights were violated as he was subjected to "inhumane" and "degrading" treatment in prison -- a decision that disturbed many families of the victims, mostly teenagers at a summer island camp.
"We hope that the state wins this new round, that justice digs deeper into the case," said the head of a family support group, Lisbeth Kristine Royneland, whose 18-year-old daughter was shot dead by Breivik in the killing spree on Utoya island.
Breivik is imprisoned in a 30 square-metre (320 square-foot) three-cell complex where he's allowed to play video games and watch television on two sets. The 37-year-old also has a computer without internet access, gym machines, books and newspapers.
But beyond these comfortable material conditions, a district court judge had ruled that security measures took excessive precedence over human rights. She pointed to the fact that Breivik had been kept isolated from other inmates "in a prison inside a prison", without enough social activities. The ruling also questioned the many potentially "humiliating" strip searches, the systematic use of handcuffs and other frequent awakenings at night, especially in the early days of his imprisonment. On July 22, 2011, Breivik carried out two attacks, first killing eight people by detonating a bomb at the foot of a government building in Oslo. Then, disguised as a policeman, he killed 69 others by opening fire at a Labour Party youth camp on the Utoya island with the teenagers trapped by the freezing waters of the surrounding lake.
The attacks were the worst committed on Norwegian soil since World War II. Breivik, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who said he killed his victims because they valued multiculturalism, was sentenced in August 2012 to 21 years in prison, a term that can be extended if he is still considered a threat. Some survivors hailed humanity's victory over an inhumane killer in the April ruling against the Norwegian state, but it pained many relatives of the victims and was criticised in the media.
During the lower court's hearing, Breivik repeatedly provoked onlookers by making a Nazi salute and complaining about cold coffee and frozen meals. The Norwegian press described the ruling as "wrong" and "difficult to digest". Unsurprisingly, the state appealed. Attorney General Fredrik Sejersted has insisted that "there is no evidence that Breivik is physically or mentally affected by his prison conditions."
The state maintains that Breivik is not isolated, arguing that he has regular contact with guards and other professionals. They say his separation from other prisoners is for his own security and that of others. Breivik's lawyer Oystein Storrvik counters that "the state has not put in place concrete measures to remedy Breivik's mental vulnerability and damage due to prolonged isolation."