Criticism of AUF leader Eskil Pedersen for Fleeing
Utøya on ferry MS "Thorbjorn"
Dagbladet | 04/15/2012, at. 8:51 p.m.
Wikipedia: Eskil Pedersen (born 6 March 1984 in Skien) is a Norwegian politician and leader of the Workers' Youth League (AUF), the youth organisation associated with Norway's leading Labour Party.
On 22 July 2011 Pedersen survived the massacre on the Workers' Youth League summer camp at Utøya on 22 July 2011.
Although leaders of AUF are never anonymous, his role in the aftermath as a representative for the organisation has caused a vast increase in media exposure, particularly in the months following the attacks. Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the attacks, stated that Pedersen was one of his three primary targets.
M/S Thorbjørn controversy
There has been widespread speculation in forums and independent blogs about the conduct on the ferry, but most professional media outlets have refused to participate in the criticism. A news website, Nettavisen, published a story raising questions about the conduct a day after the massacre, but received fierce reactions from other members of the press as well as the AUF itself.
More recently, one survivor and employee of AUF who himself was wounded wrote of his reaction to seeing the ferry leave, saying that it was "unbelievable" and that they felt "helpless and abandoned" watching it disappear. The survivor, 22-year old Adrian Pracon from Telemark later published a book detailing his ordeal. which he claimed the AUF tried to block, a claim the organization denied. The book was later withdrawn by the publisher only to be re-published a week later with minor edits after the sister of one of the deceased had discovered that details about her little brother had been included without consent or notification of the family. He also accused the leadership of AUF of trying to silence him, by ordering him to not speak to the media.
Another survivor, 20-year old Bjørn Ihler from Oslo said of Pedersen in an interview with the BBC: "This was the leader of the group, it was as if the Captain abandoned his ship", but later stated that his quotes were part of a broader context, and that he had described his feelings of being abandoned, more than criticising the actions.
Pedersen defended his actions in the same programme, stating: "I think I acted normally given the situation. I acted according to instinct. I did what I was told and boarded the boat" and countered "I have been criticized for my actions, and for my views on the multicultural society by people who supports the gunman's views".
The movements of MS Thorbjørn is currently being investigated as a part of the broader inquiry into the attacks by the official July 22 Commission.
[According to NRK: Pedersen was inside the main house on Utøya, watching television broadcasts about the explosion in Oslo when Anders Breivik Behring started the massacre on 22 July. In the mist between the main house and the ferry he saw two dead bodies - the police officer Trond Berntsen and "Mother Utøya" - Monica Bosei. He rushed to the ferry where there were eight other people hiding. He was informed that the policeman (Breivik) also had a ton of weapons and ammunition and there were other shooters on the island. He thought the Oslo and Utoya attacks were connected and that Norway was experiencing a coup d'etat.]
Cowardice on Utøya
Gates of Vienna | Baron Bodissey | Sunday, April 15, 2012
Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer sends his translation of an article that was published in today’s Dagbladet. It discusses the case of Eskild Pedersen, the leader of the AUF (Youth division of the Labour Party), who escaped from Utøya on July 22 during the massacre.
The translator includes this note:
I’m not going to criticize Pedersen for the choices he made that day, but it certainly does not put him in a very flattering light. People who were in the area at the time put their own lives at risk and saved numerous young people who had got into the lake and fled the island.The translated article:
Pedersen heard the gunshots and listened to the desperate pleas from those still on the island, but decided not to return and help. He was only thinking of himself.
That is the classical definition of a coward.
A member of a local chapter of the FrP (Progress Party) was sacked for calling Pedersen a coward at the time this incident was first made public, and I haven’t heard of anyone else questioning Pedersen’s choice up until now.
Criticized for fleeing Utøya
AUF leader Eskil Pedersen is criticized for fleeing Utøya on board the passenger ferry MS Thorbjørn.
In an interview with the BBC Pedersen gives his perspective on the flight and the criticism that followed afterwards. Nine people escaped the island onboard the ferry when the massacre occurred.
“I think I acted the way people would normally act in such circumstances, on instinct. I did as I was told and boarded the vessel, based on the information I had at the time,” Pedersen says in the interview, excerpts from which NRK showed last Sunday.
Now he is criticized from within the ranks of the AUF about the choices he made on July 22, 2011. AUF member Bjørn Ihler survived the massacre by hiding on the southern tip of the island.
“It’s easy to say that this is how people would react, that most would have fled the island. But this was the leader of the people on the island. It is akin to a captain abandoning ship,” Ihler says.
“Our only hope”
Adrian Pracon, County Secretary of Telemark AUF, describes the ordeal in his book, Heart to the stone, about how he was lying on a rock and simply couldn’t believe that the ferry had left the island.
“MS Thorbjørn was our only hope, and now it had left without us,” Pracon writes in the book. Pracon was shot in the shoulder, but survived the massacre by playing dead. He later stressed that this passage is not in any way meant as a criticism of Pedersen or the crew onboard MS Thorbjørn.
Pedersen said he acted on instinct and that he was told by others to get on the ferry.
“The offender has stated in interviews that I was his main target on Utøya. He had studied pictures of me and wanted to kill me. It is important to remember this,” says Pedersen.
“Does not recollect details”
The ferry departed Utøya around 17.30, fifteen minutes after Anders Breivik Behring made landfall. While the ferry was heading away from the island on the Tyri lake, several of the people on Utøya contacted the ferry with their cell phones and pleaded with the crew to return.
Pedersen says he does not remember who made the decision not to return.
“It is very difficult to analyze the choices that people made that day and what could have been done differently. It’s a hypothetical question that only produces hypothetical answers,” he says.
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