Norway vows "humane" conditions for Anders Breivik

Anders Behring Breivikm reacts in court as prosecutors deliver their closing arguments in the court in Oslo, Norway, June 21, 2012.
AP Photo/Berit Roald/Scanpix NTB POOL

(AP) OSLO, Norway - Those expecting Anders Behring Breivik to spend the rest of his days alone in a cramped cell will be disappointed when the far-right fanatic receives his sentence Friday for killing 77 people in a bomb and gun rampage last year.

If declared insane, the confessed killer will be the sole patient of a psychiatric ward that Norway built just for him, with 17 people on staff to treat him.

If found mentally fit, he will remain isolated, for now, in the high-security prison where he uses three 86-square-foot (8-square-meter) cells: a bed room, an exercise room and a study.

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Officials at Oslo's Ila Prison say the ambition would be to eventually transfer Breivik to a section with other prisoners, who have access to a school that teaches from primary grades through university-level courses, a library, a gym, work in the prison's various shops and other leisure activities.

It's all about a philosophy of humane prison treatment and rehabilitation that forms the bedrock of the Scandinavian penal system.

"I like to put it this way: He's a human being. He has human rights. This is about creating a humane prison regime," said Ellen Bjercke, a spokeswoman for Ila Prison.

A cell in the isolation wing of the Ila prison in Baerum just outside Oslo.
A cell in the isolation wing of the Ila prison in Baerum just outside Oslo.

Dealing with an unrepentant killer responsible for Norway's worst massacre since World War II puts the system to, perhaps, its most challenging test yet.

During his trial, Breivik, 33, coolly described how he set off a car bomb that killed eight people and injured scores in Oslo's government district on July 22 last year. Then he unleashed a shooting rampage that left 69 people dead, mostly teenagers, at the summer camp of the governing Labor Party's youth wing. The youngest victim was 14.

In testimony that was deeply disturbing to the bereaved, the self-styled anti-Muslim militant said he was acting in defense of Norway by targeting the left-wing political party he accused of betraying the country with liberal immigration policies.

Since Breivik's guilt is not in question, the key decision for the Oslo district court Friday is whether to declare him insane after two psychiatric teams reached opposite conclusions on his mental health.

Its ruling will be read in a courtroom custom-built for Breivik's trial at a cost of 40 million kroner ($6.8 million). A glass partition separates Breivik from relatives of victims attending the hearing. Remote-controlled cameras capture the proceedings, and a video feed is distributed to court rooms around Norway, where other relatives can watch it live.

Ila prison, Anders Breivik
One of the cells inside Ila prison just outside Oslo, Norway where Anders Behring Breivik has been held most of the time since the July 22 attacks in Oslo last year.
AP Photo/ Ila Prison / Glefs AS / NTB scanpix

Prison officials say the special measures for Breivik are justified because he presents a security risk that Norway's prison and justice systems previously didn't have the infrastructure to deal with.

Some Norwegians disagree.

"To do that for just one person, when there are other things in Norway that need to be taken care of, like elderly care and roads and such things -- the money could have been spent on other things," said Thomas Indreboe, who was removed as a lay judge in the case when it emerged that he had advocated on the Internet for Breivik to be executed. In Europe only Belarus still applies the death penalty, according to Amnesty International.

Indreboe stood by his assertion that capital punishment would make sense in Breivik's case and save "taxpayers from unnecessary expenditures."