Breivik Claims Self-Defense as Oslo Terror Trial Starts
Anders Behring Breivik claimed self-defense and refused to recognize the authority of the Oslo court hearing his trial for the murder of 77 people in twin terror attacks on July 22.
“I don’t recognize the legitimacy of this court, you have received your mandate from political parties that support multiculturalism,” Breivik said. While he doesn’t admit to criminal guilt, he confessed to the murders, arguing they were committed out of a “principle of necessity.”
The 33-year-old, raised his right arm in a salute to the court after having his handcuffs removed, and then sat motionless as prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh read the details of each of the deaths. He later cried as prosecutors played a 12 minute video he had produced against multiculturalism.
The Oslo native killed 69 people -- some as young as 14 -- at the Utoeya Labor Party youth camp and detonated a car bomb by the prime minister’s office, taking eight lives. He has been indicted on two terror charges and if deemed sane by the court may face a permanent detention sentence of at least 21 years.
“I don’t care about Breivik as a person,” Tore Sinding Bekkedal, 24, who survived the attacks on Utoya, said today at the court house. “He’s a sad little individual who did this partly to get attention both for himself and for the political extremes he’s representing. The most important thing is that there’s a proper trial and that as much of the focus as possible is on caring for those who have lost loved ones and as little as possible on the perpetrator.”
Breivik also raised an objection to Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, saying she’s a personal friend of the sister of former Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Gro Harlem Brundtland.
The trial is being broadcast to 17 court houses nationwide to allow about 2,000 aggrieved relatives and friends of the victims to follow the proceedings. The 77 people killed are represented by 162 counsel. The state has two prosecutors while Breivik has a defense team of four who will argue the case in front of two district court judges and three lay judges.
The prosecution has called 99 witnesses while Breivik’s attorneys have summoned 29, including Carl I. Hagen, the former chairman of Norway’s anti-immigration Progress Party, and Raymond Johansen, secretary general of the Labor Party of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Prosecutor Svein Holden today took about four hours going over in detail the events of July 22. Breivik has told police that he is a member of a group based on the Knights Templar, Holden said in his opening statement. His membership of this organization, which he claims to have joined in May 2002, is of “great importance to how he leads his life,” Holden said.
“In our opinion there is no such network, at least not one as Breivik describes,” he said.
An initial psychiatric evaluation last year found Breivik to be delusional and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, meaning he would face compulsory treatment rather than prison. The decision was criticized by victims and caused the Oslo court to order a new assessment in January. The second evaluation was released last week and found him not to be clinically psychotic and therefore accountable for his actions.
Neither evaluation is binding for the court. If found sane by the judges, Breivik faces a maximum sentence of 21 years and the possibility of five-year extensions as long as he’s deemed a danger to society.
“The defendant wishes to be sentenced as a legally sane person,” Geir Lippestad, Brievik’s attorney said in his opening statement, which took about half an hour. He asked the court to accept that Breivik be allowed to read a 30 minute text tomorrow.
The court administration expects to spend 76 million kroner ($13 million) to cover the costs of the 10-week trial. That includes providing facilities for about 1,500 accredited journalists. Police have cordoned off five streets leading to the court.
“It will be perhaps history’s saddest trial with a review of 77 autopsy reports,” said Geir Engebretsen, the court chief justice, at the April 11 opening of the $5 million high-security room built for the case. A full floor has been set aside for “Norway’s biggest and most serious criminal trial,” he said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Stephen Treloar in Oslo at firstname.lastname@example.org; Josiane Kremer in Oslo at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonas Bergman at firstname.lastname@example.org