Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Terrorism in Norway: Breivik behind closed doors

Norway Oslo Explosion
(c) AP
Yesterday, we learned a little more about Anders Breivik’s background, views, motives and plans. Whilst Norwegian courts are normally open to the public, we only ascertained this information via a press conference.

The Independent reports: 
"Breivik had wanted to explain in public why he perpetrated modern-day Norway's worst peace-time massacre. He was denied a public platform, but the judge, in his news conference, gave an account of what the accused 32-year-old had said. Heger said Breivik had accused the ruling Labour Party of betraying Norway with "mass imports of Muslims".
He said his bombing of government buildings in Oslo and massacre at a summer camp for Labour's youth wing was aimed at deterring future recruitment to the party. 
"The goal of the attack was to give a strong signal to the people," the judge quoted Breivik as saying."
I understand that the judge opted not to give him the opportunity to express his distasteful views originally following a public outcry, and later after a request from the police. The Guardian's live coverage offered the following:
“Based on information in the case the court finds that today's detention hearing should be held behind closed doors. 
It is clear that there is concrete information that a public hearing with the suspect present could quickly lead to an extraordinary and very difficult situation in terms of the investigation and security.”
On the face of it, I can understand why we should not allow him the opportunity of reveling in his terrible deed. I can understand that need to respect the grief of those nearest and dearest to those who tragically died; I am assuming that they would not want to hear Breivik attest to his crimes in court, but I do not know.
However, Breivik is headline news. The media have gone to great lengths to find out as much information as they can about him to try to inform us of his background, views, motives and plans. Moreover, we could have found this information out online. We know that he posted a 1,500-page document outlining his hatred of Islam, immigration and multi-culturalism, and we know that he had a Facebook page.
The Independent reports: 
"A Facebook group called "Boycott Anders Behring Breivik" carried the message: "He has planned this stage, to get propaganda. Do NOT let him get that freedom ... Boycott all media describing the Norwegian terrorist and his beliefs."
Given the omnipotence of Facebook, which is in itself a form of media, the paradox is that by establishing this group, further light is shone on Breivik and his beliefs.
Breivik is in the public domain. Therefore, holding a private hearing will not silence him, or what he stands for. If there are security concerns, then it is not clear whether this reflects the security of the investigation or a wider notion of national security. My concern is that by deciding to hold a closed-door hearing, that this will fan the flames of right-wing idolatry. If we seek to silence those whose views, I, for one, do not wish to tolerate, then we provide a rationale to extreme right-wing conspiracy theories that claim that the democratic system is biased towards immigrants. This makes democracy less, not more, secure. 
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