Monday, July 25, 2011

Norwegians protest lax penalty for shooter

Swat team on Utoya Island
The fact that Norway's maximum penalty for any crime is 21 years in prison is facing rising criticism in the wake of the twin attacks that killed 93 people, with many deeming the penalty too lax.

Ever since Norwegian media named 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik as the prime suspect, calls have been growing for the maximum penalty under the Norwegian penal code to be extended.

If found guilty, Behring Breivik's 21 years in prison would equal a penalty of 82 days per killing.

"So many innocent people have been killed that I think he doesn't have the right to live," Mari Kaugerud says on her Facebook group "Yes to the death penalty for Anders Behring Breivik" that already has 1783 members.

Dozens of similar groups have sprung up since Friday's killings, some calling for the death penalty, others for natural life in prison.

"People like that shouldn't be able to get out among normal people," says 31-year-old Mustafa. "If he gets 21 years, how old will he be? 53! No, he's ruined too much to ever get out," says the Iranian-born shopkeeper.

Like most people that AFP spoke to on Sunday, Mustafa is against the death penalty, but he wants the suspect, who has admitted responsibility, to spend his natural life in prison.

Norwegian law does allow for a convict to spend more than 21 years locked up, as experts can keep him or her behind bars up for additional five-year stretches if the prisoner is deemed dangerous.

"But how many times will that happen?" says Daniel de Francisco, a 25-year-old chef.

"European governments go too soft on this. Let's put them away for life," he says, drawing bitterly on his cigarette.

Helen Arvesen, a 21-year-old student, agrees that the sentence would be too lenient, but "I don't like the death penalty".

Even if he is released "he'll be facing a lot of angry people so he'll not be safe any more", she says, her mother standing next to her nodded in agreement.

As soon as Behring Breivik was arrested, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg tried to rally the famous spirit of tolerance in Norway, where prisons are comfortable and crime and repeat offending rates are low.

Stoltenberg said on Sunday that the response to the carnage was "more democracy, more openness, more humanity, but without naivety". He did not mention any eventual punishment.

Norway abolished the death penalty for most crimes in 1902, and for all crimes including war crimes in 1979.

The last execution dates from 1948, three years after that of Nazi collaborator leader Vidkun Quisling, who was shot for high treason.

Source: AFP, July 24, 2011

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