Breivik trial gets underway
16/04/2012 - 08:28:20
The right-wing fanatic who confessed to killing 77 people in a bomb and shooting massacre in Norway went on trial today, defiantly rejecting the authority of the court.
Anders Behring Breivik, dressed in a dark suit, smiled as a guard removed his handcuffs in the crowded courtroom in the capital, Oslo.
The 33-year-old then flashed a closed-fist salute, before shaking hands with prosecutors and court officials.
“I don’t recognise Norwegian courts because you get your mandate from the Norwegian political parties who support multi-culturalism,” Breivik said in his first comments to the court.
Breivik also said he did not recognise the authority of Judge Wenche Elisabeth Arntzen, because he said she is friends with the sister of former Norwegian prime minister and Labour Party leader Gro Harlem Brundtland.
The anti-Muslim militant described himself as a writer, currently working from prison, when asked by the judge for his employment status.
After opening statements today, Breivik is set to give evidence for five days, explaining why he set off a bomb in central Oslo, killing eight people, and then shot dead another 69 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labour Party youth camp on Utoya island, outside the Norwegian capital.
Breivik has admitted the attacks, claiming they were necessary to protect Norway from being taken over by Muslims, but has rejected criminal guilt. He is facing terrorism and premeditated murder charges.
The key issue to be resolved during the 10-week trial is the state of Breivik’s mental health, which will decide whether he is sent to prison or to psychiatric care.
If Breivik is deemed mentally competent, he would face a maximum prison sentence of 21 years or an alternate custody arrangement under which the sentence is prolonged for as long as an inmate is deemed a danger to society.
Survivors of the massacre, some of whom are attending the trial in Oslo’s district court, are worried that he will use the trial as a platform for his extremist political ideology.
In a manifesto he published online before the attacks, Breivik wrote that “patriotic resistance fighters” should use trials “as a platform to further our cause”.
Police sealed off the streets around the court building, where journalists, survivors and relatives of victims watched the proceedings in a 200-seat courtroom built specifically for the trial.
Thick glass partitions were put up to separate the defendant from victims and their families.
Norway’s NRK television will broadcast parts of the trial, but it is not allowed to show Breivik’s evidence.
Breivik told investigators he is a resistance fighter in a far-right militant group modelled on the Knights Templar medieval crusaders, but police have found no trace of the organisation and say he acted alone.
Anxious to prove he is not insane, he has called right-wing extremists and radical Islamists to give evidence during the trial, to show that there are others who share his view of clashing civilisations.
Breivik surrendered to police an hour and 20 minutes after he arrived on Utoya. The police response was slowed by a series of mishaps, including the lack of an operating police helicopter and the breakdown of an overloaded boat carrying a commando team to the island.
10am update: Breivik pleaded not guilty in court to terror and murder charges saying he was acting in self-defence.
He said that of the bombing in Oslo and the shooting massacre: “I admit to the acts, but not criminal guilt.”
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