Norwegian Killer Takes Stand
TV cameras are switched off as Anders Behring Breivik defends his massacre of 77 people in Norway last year.
COLOGNE, Germany – The television cameras that carried the opening of Norway’s trial of the century on Monday were switched off on day two as the accused, Anders Behring Brievik, took the stand to defend his killing of 77 people on a single day last year.
While the court in Oslo has allowed cameras to show live footage of some of the trial – a first for Norway – it is not allowing broadcast of Brievik’s testimony as it does not want to give him a media platform for his extremist, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic views.
Those views were not broadcast live on Tuesday but trickled out in the form or Tweets and online reporting from inside the courtroom. What emerged was a rant against multiculturalism and democracy as Brievik views it is practiced in Norway.
After boasting he had “carried out the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack committed in Europe since the Second World War,” Brievik said he would have done it all again. Many of his comments seemed self-contradictory. At one point he lamented that Norway could not be called a democracy as long as “news agencies promote multicultural values,” while at the same time appearing to condemn democracy altogether. “What happened the last time a real democracy came to power? Hitler was in charge,” Brievick read from his prepared statement.
The trial had its first media-sparked scandal Tuesday after the court dismissed one of the presiding lay judges when it emerged he had posted on Facebook that the killer deserved the death penalty. The lay judge, Thomas Inderbro, who is a receptionist in his regular life, posted the comment last year the day after Brievik carried out the attacks. On Tuesday, chief judge Elisabeth Arntzen said she had dismissed Inderbro and replaced him with another lay judge. In accordance with Norway’s legal system, a panel of five judges – two professional judges and three ordinary citizens – will rule in the Brievik case.
The 33-year-old Brievik has admitted to killing eight people in a bombing near government headquarters in Oslo on July 22 last year and to then gunning down 69 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labour Party summer camp. But he has pleaded not guilty for reasons of “necessity,” claiming the killings were a political act needed to defend Norway from the dangers of immigration, multi-culturalism and Islam. Under the Norwegian penal code, violence can be justified if it is committed in order to save people or property from an otherwise unavoidable danger. Brievik's lawyers have asked the court to acquit him off all charges.
Brievik will have five days of testimony in which he will be cross-examined by defense and prosecuting attorneys. The outcome of the trial will hinge on whether the judges believe Brievik was certifiably sane when he carried out the attacks. Two separate court-ordered psychiatric evaluations came to opposite conclusions on the issue. The first, carried out shortly after the attacks, judged Brievik to be psychotic and insane. The second, ordered partly in response to questions as to how an insane man could have systematically planned the killings over several years, found Brievik was mentally competent when he carried out the massacres.
If judged sane, Brievik faces a maximum 21-year sentence, with possible extensions should he be judged a threat to society. If found to be certifiably insane, he will likely spend the rest of his life in a mental institution. The trial is scheduled to take 10 weeks with a ruling expected in July.