Norway relieved after Breivik verdict

With Anders Behring Breivik sent to prison, Norway now turns its attention to the lessons to be learned from the massacre with the prime minister launching the process when he appears before parliament on Tuesday.

The country closed a tragic chapter on Friday when an Oslo court sentenced Breivik to Norway's maximum sentence — 21 years in prison, to be extended if he is still considered a threat to society — for the July 2011 bombing and shooting frenzy that left 77 people dead.

"Never has the word relief been uttered as often in a courtroom as after the verdict yesterday," the Aftenposten newspaper said in an editorial on Saturday.

That feeling was shared by the survivors of the Utøya island shooting spree, where the 33-year-old right-wing extremist spent more than an hour gunning down 69 people, mostly teenagers, after he killed eight people in a van bombing outside the government offices in Oslo.

"This crap is finally over. Life can start now," survivor Ingrid Nymoen posted on Twitter.

The sense of relief was bolstered by the fact that the verdict was likely to be definitive, with both the prosecution and defence saying they did not plan to appeal.

Norway can now put the trial — and the cathartic process it enabled — behind it and address the shortcomings Breivik's attacks brought to light in its traditionally liberal society viewed by some critics as naive.

An independent commission set up by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg recently issued a scathing report on the authorities' handling of the attacks, concluding that the Oslo bombing could have been prevented.

Breivik's shooting spree, Europe's deadliest rampage by a lone gunman in peacetime, could also have been stopped sooner, it said.

The report, published on August 13th, prompted the national police commissioner to resign.

The commission condemned apathy it said rose to the highest levels of the state, noting that it failed to implement a 2004 decision to partially block off a government block from traffic.

That made it possible for Breivik to park a van loaded with almost a tonne of explosives at the foot of the 17-storey tower housing the prime minister's offices.

The day after the report was published, tabloid Verdens Gang (VG), Norway's most widely-read paper, called on Stoltenberg to assume responsibility and resign.

While a majority of Norwegians think Stoltenberg should stay on, the newspaper's call and the echoes since have weakened the prime minister, just a year ahead of legislative elections which the government is not certain of winning.

Stoltenberg will, at his own request, address parliament on Tuesday about the report, calling in legislators during their summer break for an extraordinary session.

The meeting is aimed at learning lessons from the commission's criticism, primarily regarding the police's bungled response to the attacks which probably cost lives.

The only police helicopter was out of action because its crew were on holiday, and a SWAT team took more than an hour to finally make it to the island, forced to use a pleasure boat after their inflatable almost sank.

The right-wing opposition has not ruled out the possibility of calling a motion of no-confidence against the government.

But such a move would be purely symbolic as the centre-left coalition government holds a majority in parliament.

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Norway mosque shooter ‘has admitted the facts’: Police

A Norwegian man suspected of killing his step sister and opening fire in a mosque near Oslo last weekend, has admitted to the crimes though he has not officially entered a plea, police said on Friday.

Norway mosque shooter 'has admitted the facts': Police
Philip Manshaus appears in court on August 12. Photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB Scanpix / AFP
Philip Manshaus, 21, was remanded in custody Monday, suspected of murder and a “terrorist act” that police say he filmed himself committing.
Answering police questions on Friday, “the suspect admits the facts but has not taken a formal position as to the charges,” Oslo police official Pal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said in a statement.
Manshaus is suspected of murdering his 17-year-old step sister Johanne Zhangjia Ihle-Hansen, before entering the Al-Noor mosque in an affluent Oslo suburb and opening fire before he was overpowered by a 65-year-old man.
Just three worshippers were in the mosque at the time, and there were no serious injuries.
Manshaus appeared in court this week with two black eyes and scrapes and bruises to his face, neck and hands.
Police have said he has “extreme right views” and “xenophobic positions” and that he had filmed the mosque attack with a camera mounted on a helmet. He had initially denied the accusations.
The incident came amid a rise in white supremacy attacks around the world, including the recent El Paso massacre in the United States.
Norway witnessed one of the worst-ever attacks by a rightwing extremist in July 2011, when Anders Behring Breivik, who said he feared a “Muslim invasion”, killed 77 people in a truck bomb blast near government offices in Oslo and a shooting spree at a Labour Party youth camp on the island of Utøya.