OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian civil servant who had to have his leg amputated after a bomb planted by far right mass killer Anders Behring Breivik tore through his body spoke on Friday of the moment his life changed forever.
“Suddenly something hits me, a very strong pressure wave that lifts me up and throws me far away,” Tore Raasok, a 56-year-old transport ministry worker, told judges trying Breivik for the murder last summer of 77 people in cold blood.
Raasok is one of eight survivors of Breivik’s July 22 bombing of government offices due to take the witness stand on Friday to describe the effect his crimes had on their life.
Survivors of Breivik’s other atrocity - a shooting rampage on a Labour party island camp - will appear before the court at a later date.
Approaching the stand slowly on crutches, Raasok said he had just left the transport ministry in Oslo to get a haircut when Breivik’s fertilizer bomb blew up half a block away.
Formerly an avid skier, Raasok said the blast had sent glass shards flying into both his eyes, and that both his legs had been crushed. The left one later had to be amputated, and the transport ministry employee said he had undergone 10 operations and had lost the use of his left arm.
“Things have gone pretty well with my eyes,” the bespectacled civil servant said, as Breivik watched intently just a few meters away. “I see as poorly as I did before the event,” he added with black humor.
“All this is very tough to hear,” prosecutor Svein Holden told Reuters. “But these cases are part of the indictment, so the victims have to shed light on the consequences of what happened.”
Breivik, 33, is charged with terrorism and murder for detonating a bomb that killed eight people and injured more than 200, and for then gunning down 69 others at a Labour Party island camp, most of them aged between 14 and 19 years old.
He has admitted he carried out the killings but has denied criminal guilt, insisting the victims were left-leaning “traitors” whose presumed political support for immigration was helping destroy European culture.
Kristian Rasmussen, another bomb victim, told the court he was writing an email in his office at the energy ministry when “everything went black.”
“I was in a coma for about 12 days and there was a lot of uncertainty if I would survive,” the 31-year-old recalled.
Rasmussen sustained major head injuries, including severe bleeding on the brain, a broken neck and major abdominal wounds. He was hospitalized for almost two months.
His recovery was so slow that friends and family dared not tell him about the camp shooting until a week after he came out of a coma, fearing he might otherwise relapse.
Other survivors have lost much of their hearing.
Outside the courthouse, thousands of roses were still in place, lain by some of the 40,000 people who gathered on Thursday to sing a song derided by Breivik in a demonstration organizers said was meant to support his victims and show the gunman he had not broken their tolerant society.
Dressed in an olive suit, Breivik was not scheduled to speak on Friday but was informed of Thursday’s protest and had “made a note of it”, one of his lawyers said. He showed no visible sign of emotion as his victims spoke.
The trial, which is likely to pivot on whether Breivik is ruled insane or not, is expected to last until late June as witnesses tell their stories and political and mental-health experts discuss Breivik’s militant views.
Two different psychiatric teams have reached opposing conclusions about his mental state - it will be up to the five-judge panel to rule on his sanity.
If deemed sane, Breivik faces 21 years in prison, a term that can be extended indefinitely. If judged insane, he faces the prospect of being held in a mental institution indefinitely.
Editing by Andrew Osborn