Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer who killed 77 people -- the majority of them teenagers and young adults -- in a right-wing terrorist attack, appeared in court Tuesday and made a Nazi salute during a bid to improve the treatment he is receiving in prison, CNN is reporting.
Appearing in a black suit and gold tie while sporting a shaved head and looking slimmer than he did since he was last seen by the media, Breivik gave the salute as soon as his handcuffs were removed.
Mass killer Anders Behring Breivik makes Nazi salute at start of court case in Norway. https://t.co/ZpJo3Cf4P5 pic.twitter.com/AQtDxVKBLN
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) March 15, 2016
Because of the intense security measures surrounding Breivik, the convicted mass murderer was not allowed to plead his case in a regular courtroom. Instead, a gymnasium attached to Skein Prison, where Breivik is being held, was converted into a makeshift courtroom for Breivik's appearance.
Breivik claims that his treatment in a Norwegian prison violates the European Convention on Human Rights which, among other issues, addresses how prisoners are to be treated. Specifically, Article 3 of the Convention prohibits "inhuman or degrading treatment" and Article 8 guarantees "respect for privacy" and "correspondence."
Breivik claims that he has been denied both of those rights while in prison. Specifically, he claims that he's kept in isolation from other inmates, has only limited contact with guards, and has no contact with anyone on the outside except his social worker. When he was allowed to visit his mother, who died in 2013, he was only allowed a few minutes to hug and have physical contact with her. All other visitors have had to speak to Breivik through a glass panel.
Other complaints include being subjected to several hundred strip searches, some carried out by female guards, and none of which found any contraband. He's also faced restrictions on his mail privileges that make it virtually impossible for Breivik to contact anyone on the outside or build relationships.
Prison officials, meanwhile, insist that the restrictions placed on Breivik are appropriate and necessary, considering the severity of his crimes as well as intense, right-wing hatred that officials believe could encourage others to commit similar acts of violence should his mail restrictions be loosened.
Similarly, prison officials note that Breivik has had access to a computer (though without internet access), has writing tools, a TV, and a gaming console. Through the help of his social worker, officials say Breivik has been able to take on correspondence courses. They also insist that his priest has been able to visit him regularly.
Compared to American prisons, Norwegian prisons are downright cushy, according to a 2014 Business Insider report. Norway focuses on rehabilitating prisoners and preparing them for life in the outside world once their sentence is up, rather than confining them in an undesirable place for the express purpose of punishing them.
Anders Breivik, who killed 77, sues Norway over "inhuman" prison life. https://t.co/lWUQ4HoB6D This is his cell: pic.twitter.com/NJF4zerEi8
— Nigel Britto (@NigelBritto) March 15, 2016
Norway's liberal approach to justice and rehabilitation when it comes to prison appears to be working. The country has a less than 20 percent recidivism rate -- that is, prisoners who commit crimes after their release and return to prison. By comparison, the recidivism rate in the U.S. is closer to 76 percent.
Breivik's sentence is also comparatively light. In 2012, Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed by Norwegian law at the time. That works out to fewer than 100 days in prison for each of the people murdered during his 2011 killing spree. Still, prison authorities could keep him in prison beyond his original sentence if he is determined to still be a threat.
Do you believe that Anders Behring Breivik has a legitimate complaint about how he's being treated in prison?
[Photo by Frank Augstein/AP, File]