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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 15:00 GMT
Neo-Nazis guilty of Oslo race murder
Grieving friends of Benjamin Hermansen
The murder caused a national outcry
Two Norwegian neo-Nazis have been jailed for murdering a 15-year-old mixed race teenager in what has been seen as Norway's first race-related murder case.

Benjamin Hermansen, son of a black Ghanaian father and white Norwegian mother, was knifed to death on the night of 26 January last year.

Benjamin Hermansen would not have been attacked if his skin had been the same colour as the defendants

Oslo City Court
Joe Erling Jahr, 20, had told Oslo City Court he alone had stabbed the boy, but a Norwegian court also found Ole Nicolai Kvisler, 22, guilty of knifing him to death.

Although they faced a maximum jail sentence of 21 years, Jahr received a 16-year sentence and Kvisler was jailed for 15 years.

Some anti-racism groups said the sentences were too lenient.

Both men had admitted having links to Norwegian neo-Nazi groups and openly described themselves as racist.

Anti-racist protests

A third defendant, 18-year-old Veronica Andreassen, was found guilty of abetting actual bodily harm causing death.

She received a three-year sentence.

The brutal murder triggered anti-racist protests on a scale that had never been seen before in Norway.

Nearly 40,000 people, including politicians and royals, took to the streets to show their disgust for what had happened.

Benjamin Hermansen
Benjamin Hermansen had been attacked previously

Until then most Norwegians never considered racism to be a serious problem in their largely white nation.

Norwegian neo-Nazi groups, like those that bred Hermansen's killers, are relatively few. They attract no more than a few hundred individuals.

But campaigners against racism in Norway say anti-immigrant attitudes are far from restricted to these groups.

Benjamin Hermansen was stabbed to death in a car park near his home in Oslo's multicultural Holmlia district.

Intention to kill

Nadeem Butt, director of Norway's Centre Against Racism, said he was pleased the three had been convicted but said the sentences were insufficient.

"When the case was so clear-cut and had a clear racial motive, my initial reaction is that the sentences may be low," he said.

The court said that Jahr and Kvisler had gone out that night with the intention of "getting a foreigner" and had taken knives.

Rally in Oslo
Huge crowds protested against the killing
"Benjamin Hermansen would not have been attacked if his skin had been the same colour as the defendants," the ruling said.

Jahr admitted killing Benjamin but said it was "an accident".

He also said he believed he deserved the death penalty for what he had done.

The court ruled that although Andreassen did not Take part in the attack she went with them knowing they planned violence.

Hermansen, described as active in his school and keen on sport, was born and raised in Norway.

Key witness

A few months before his death he had spoken out against racism on national television after being attacked by neo-Nazi youths at a soccer tournament in Denmark.

Against his mother's advice, he had gone out on the night of his murder to trade mobile phone covers with his best friend.

The friend was a key witness in the 12-day trial.

In the outcry that followed the murder, the Norwegian Government set up a panel to recommend ways to strengthen anti-racism laws.

Its recommendations, which included a ban on the public display of racist and Nazi symbols, are still under consideration, according to the justice ministry.

See also:

17 Jan 02 | Europe
Norway 'rife with racism'
01 Feb 01 | Europe
Norwegians march against racism
30 Jan 01 | Europe
Charges over Oslo 'racist' murder
23 Oct 99 | Europe
Swedes rally against racists
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Norway
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