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Has Norway given Breivik exactly what he wanted?

Norway's decision to try Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed killer behind the July 2011 terror attacks, is controversial because it gives him a very public platform from which to share his views.

By Correspondent / May 11, 2012

Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik smiles in court during his trial in Oslo on Friday, May 11.

Heiko Junge/NTB Scanpix/Reuters

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Oslo

Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik warned in his manifesto, released online shortly before last summer’s twin terror attacks, that he would use an eventual trial to spread his message.

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“If you for some reason survive the operation you will be apprehended and arrested,” he ominously forebodes in "2083: A European Declaration of Independence." “This is the point where most heroic Knights would call it a day. However, this is not the case for a Justiciar Knight. Your arrest will mark the initiation of the propaganda phase.”

The possibility that his public trial could be used as a podium and inspire copycats, as well as consideration for victims and their families, prompted a ban on the broadcast of his testimony. However, his words have still been circulated by the hundreds of international journalists who have been covering the trial in Oslo nonstop since it began April 16.

Altogether Mr. Breivik killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, in a car bomb attack at the main government buildings in Oslo and in a shooting rampage at the Labour party youth camp on Utøya island. He blames the Labour Party for undermining Norwegian society by promoting multiculturalism with its lenient immigration policies, which he says have allowed mass immigration.

The question now is whether, after weeks of shocking testimony, Breivik has succeeded in disseminating his call to arms against the Islamic colonization of Europe. That possibility was one of several arguments made in the United States against trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, in a civilian court, where his trial would be covered by the media. 

Support for his ideas? Yes. But for his tactics?

Terrorist experts in Norway say it is evident that, despite the violence of the July 22 attacks, Breivik does have followers, and his court appearance may be creating some admiration among some “respectable citizens,” says Helge Lurås, an Oslo-based terror expert. Mr. Lurås believes that Breivik’s core ideology – that immigration is threatening the nation – is one shared by quite a few Norwegians, as well as many throughout Europe, as evidenced by the growing popularity of right-wing parties. 

“His argument that this is a ‘war’ which justifies the most horrific acts does play home with some, especially since they find elements to agree with in his ideological justification,” Lurås says. “People have now got to know Breivik as a human being, with emotions, self-corrective behavior, etc. This causes some of them to have empathy with him, and I think a few are secretly cheering him on, hoping that he will not break down in court.”

That might be one of the reasons for the increase in support for the organization Stop the Islamization of Norway (SIAN). The group, which has more than 10,000 Facebook fans, claims that it has continued to receive monetary gifts and new members since the start of Breivik’s trial April 16, including an anonymous donation of 50,000 Norwegian kroner ($8,700) that week. 

“Not too long ago, we received a donation for double that amount,” Arne Tumyr, SIAN leader, told Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen. “We are not a racist organization, and we take strong disassociation from Breivik’s actions. But many agree with his viewpoints.”

Breivik’s message also resonates abroad. Lars Gule, a postdoctoral research fellow at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences specializing in Middle East studies and political Islam, says many thousands in Norway and hundreds of thousands worldwide share Breivik’s ideas, or at least his understanding of political and social realities.

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