SKIEN, Norway (AP) — Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right fanatic who killed 77 people in massacres in Norway in 2011, appeared at a parole hearing Tuesday, seemingly more focused on spreading white supremacist propaganda than gaining an improbable early release from prison.
A decade ago, the Norwegian mass killer was sentenced to 21 years in prison for a bombing in Oslo and an armed rampage on the island of Utøya. That term can be extended as long as the court decides Breivik is a danger to society.
But under Norwegian law, Breivik, 42, is eligible to seek parole after serving the first 10 years.
Breivik, sporting a stubble beard and a two-piece suit, walked into a prison gymnasium-turned-courtroom with white supremacist messages pinned to his blazer and his bag. He held up a sign with the same message.
As he did during his trial, he made Nazi salutes as he entered Tuesday. He also presented himself as the leader of a Norwegian neo-Nazi movement. The Associated Press resists being used as a conduit for speech or images that espouse hate or spread propaganda and is not publishing images showing Breivik’s Nazi salutes and other white supremacist propaganda.
Breivik’s actions suggest he saw the hearing as an opportunity to disseminate his racist views, though he tried to make the case that he is no longer a threat to society. He told the Telemark District Court that he would refrain from violence, despite continuing to espouse neo-Nazi beliefs.
“Today, I strongly dissociate myself from violence and terror,” he said in a speech that lasted more than an hour. “I hereby give you my word of honor that this is behind me forever.”
If granted parole, which experts say is unlikely, he also offered to live in the Arctic or a non-Western country.
His defense lawyer, Øystein Storrvik, said during break that “this is not how an ordinary defender wants to start a criminal case.”
Prosecutor Hulda Karlsdottir said that the hearing would focus on the danger Breivik, who legally changed his name to Fjotolf Hansen in 2017, still poses. The conditions of his imprisonment would be “completely subordinate,” she said.
“The main topic here is the danger associated with release,” she told the court.
Breivik listened motionless as she detailed the killings and named the victims. He once tried to comment on Karlsdottir’s description but was ordered not to interrupt her by Judge Dag Bjørvik.
Breivik’s actions Tuesday morning appeared to confirm the fears of survivors and families of his victims that the hearing would give him a platform to air his hateful views.
“The only thing I am afraid of is if he has the opportunity to talk freely and convey his extreme views to people who have the same mindset,” Lisbeth Kristine Røyneland, who heads a family and survivors support group.
On July 22, 2011, after months of preparation, Breivik set off a car bomb outside the government headquarters in Oslo, killing eight people and wounding dozens. He then drove to the island of Utøya, where he opened fire on the annual summer camp of the left-wing Labor Party’s youth wing. Sixty-nine people there were killed, most of them teenagers, before Breivik surrendered to police.
The court convicted him that same year of terrorist acts after finding him criminally sane, rejecting the prosecution’s view that he was psychotic. Breivik didn’t appeal his sentence.
During his trial, he entered the courtroom daily flashing a closed fist salute and telling grieving parents that he wished he had killed more. He has been trying to start a fascist party in prison and reached out by mail to likeminded extremists in Europe and the United States. Prison officials seized many of those letters, fearing Breivik would inspire others to commit violent attacks.
He has always been isolated from other inmates at the Skien prison, 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Oslo, where he is held.
The court is set to sit until Thursday and a ruling is expected later this month — but experts say he is likely to remain behind bars since he has shown no remorse.
Ahead of the hearing, Randi Rosenqvist, the psychiatrist who has followed Breivik since 2012, said she could “not detect great changes in Breivik’s functioning,” since his criminal trial when he bragged about the scale of his slaughter, or his 2016 human rights case, when he raised his hand in a Nazi salute.
“In principle and practice someone seeking parole would have to show remorse, and to show that they understand why such acts cannot be repeated,” she said.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark.