Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik massacred 77 people on July 22, 2011
Oslo (AFP) - The Norwegian state will appeal an Oslo court ruling that mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik's solitary confinement in prison constitutes "inhuman" treatment, the government said on Tuesday.
"I have asked the attorney general to appeal the verdict," Justice Minister Anders Anundsen said in a statement.
Norway prides itself on a humane prison system aimed more at rehabilitation than punishment, and the April 20 verdict stunned observers.
The court found that the right-wing extremist, who has been held apart from other inmates for almost five years after killing 77 people in a gun and bomb rampage in 2011, has been subjected to "inhuman" and "degrading" treatment.
It said his "relative" isolation violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
But Anundsen said the state disagreed with that finding, and would in its appeal contest the court's interpretation of both the law and evidence.
The state's defence lawyer, attorney general Marius Emberland, has said he was "surprised" by the ruling and some relatives of the victims of Breivik's murderous rampage voiced dismay.
Breivik is serving a maximum 21-year sentence -- which can be extended if he is still considered dangerous -- for killing eight people in a bombing outside a government building in Oslo and then gunning down another 69, most of them teenagers, at a Labour Youth camp on the island of Utoya on July 22, 2011.
He enjoys comfortable conditions at the Skien Prison, with three cells at his disposal equipped with two showers, as well as two televisions, an Xbox, a Playstation, books and newspapers.
But he testified that his isolation regime was having negative effects on his health, citing headaches and concentration difficulties.
- Isolation is 'torture' -
The state "has been trying to kill me for five years," he said, describing his isolation as "torture".
"I don't think many people would be able to survive as long as I have."
But doctors, psychiatrists and prison staff who examined him testified they had seen no major change in his physical or mental state due to jail conditions.
The state's lawyers had argued that his conditions fell "well within the limits of what is permitted" under the European convention, and were more comfortable than those of other prisoners.
Breivik, who testified in March that he was now a Nazi who had renounced violence, had also challenged restrictions on his mail and prison visits.
But Judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic ruled in favour of the state on that issue, finding that prison authorities had not violated his right to correspondence, guaranteed by Article 8 of the convention.
The state had argued those restrictions were necessary because he was "extremely dangerous", and were intended to prevent his supporters from carrying out future attacks.
"It was expected and understandable that the state would appeal, but we have to remember the pain that the attention causes for the bereaved," Lisbeth Kristine Royneland, the head of an association representing families of the victims, told AFP.
After the ruling, Breivik's lawyer Oystein Storrvik requested that his client's isolation be ended immediately.
But the warden of Skien Prison, Ole Kristoffer Borhaug, told AFP a day later that there would be no immediate changes to his prison routine.
Storrvik, who had previously said Breivik would not appeal the rulings that were not in his favour, said Tuesday that he and his client would now reconsider.
The state will send its formal appeal to the court by May 22 at the latest.
The date and location of the appeal hearing has not yet been decided.