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Norway 'Still Shattered' As Extremist Goes On Trial

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Norway 'Still Shattered' As Extremist Goes On Trial

Europe

Norway 'Still Shattered' As Extremist Goes On Trial

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

In Oslo tomorrow, a trial begins for the man accused of committing the worst peacetime attack in Norway's history. Right wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik confessed to killing 77 people and injuring dozens more in last summer's rampage. Breivik told police he wanted to stop what he said was a Muslim invasion of Europe. Such extremist views are said to be on the rise in Europe. We'll hear more about that in a moment.

But first, NPR's Eric Westervelt is in Oslo and reports that the trial is forcing many Norwegians to relive that horrific day.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Last July 22nd police say, Anders Behring Breivik set off a car bomb in the center of Oslo near government offices. The blast killed eight people and spun residents and police into a state of chaotic alarm and confusion. The bombing was a deadly diversion that allowed Breivik to then make his way to the small bucolic Island of Utoya. There, dressed as a police officer, Breivik roamed the island and methodically gunned down 69 people - most of them teenagers attending a summer camp for the ruling Labor Party.

(SOUNDBITE OF A STREET SCENE)

WESTERVELT: Today, the orderly streets and sidewalks of Oslo are lined with blooming spring flowers, safety-helmet-wearing cyclists and families are out enjoying the sun. On the surface, it's hard to tell that some Norwegians are still deeply shaken by the massacre.

FRANK ROSSAVIK: The magnitude of the crime. So many people killed, so many people injured. The cold blood, everything.

WESTERVELT: Frank Rossavik is a commentator for a leading Norwegian weekly paper. He says many want to move on. They're tired of hearing Breivik's name and about the horrific details. But the trial is now bringing it all back on to peoples' computer screens, to their door steps in the morning paper, and back into their psyches.

ROSSAVIK: People are still shattered. And when they read about the awful things that went on in Utoya, the sadness comes back and the shock comes back, to some extent.

WESTERVELT: Breivik has voiced no remorse for the massacre. He sees it as part of a so-called war against multiculturalism, immigration and Islam, which he sees as the downfall of white, Christian Europe. He has said his only regret is that he didn't kill more people.

The case has sparked debate anew here about Norway's liberal criminal justice system. Breivik is charged with crimes including terrorism and the maximum sentence, if convicted, is just 21 years.

The idea that Breivik could be out in two decades after killing 77 people doesn't sit well with survivor Per Anders Langerod. The 26-year-old graduate student hid behind a rock before diving into the cold waters and swimming for his life while Breivik killed all around him. He held on to a makeshift raft until rescuers plucked him from the waters. He told APTN Video that he now supports a life sentence option for crimes such as Breivik's.

ANDERS LANGEROD: Sometimes that is the right thing to do, 'cause you have to protect the society. And I won't run the risk of meeting Anders Behring Breivik on the subway in 20 years. That's not an option for me. Then I'd have to move from Norway.

WESTERVELT: The trial is expected to center on Breivik's mental health. Two sets of court-appointed psychiatrists have issued contradictory reports. The first said Breivik was a delusional paranoid schizophrenic. The second dismissed that and said he was not psychotic or mentally ill at the time of the crime.

Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbo, a long time Oslo resident, says the mass murder will leave an indelible mark on the country for decades to come. But he's not convinced it will affect Norwegian society in the way, say, the 9/11 terrorist attacks shook America.

JO NESBO: That's simply because this was one individual, disturbed personality. He doesn't represent an important voice in the political landscape. So, I think that it doesn't have that change in Norwegian society. But like I said, it's too soon to tell yet.

WESTERVELT: Breivik targeted the future generation of the Labour Party, the youth wing, kids at the vanguard of what he detests: a more multicultural, ethically and religiously integrated Norway. But in fact the killing spree has only emboldened Norway's young people to get more involved. Membership in youth groups of all the main political parties, and in environmental and other groups, has increased since the attack.

Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Oslo.

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