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COLOGNE, Germany – Norway’s trial of the century gets underway today with far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik in the dock for the killing of 77 people in separate bombing and shooting attacks last summer.
Breivik gave a closed fist, right-arm salute as he entered the courtroom on Monday and said he did not recognize the authority of the Oslo court, saying the five judges who will rule over him, received their mandate “from political parties which support multiculturalism.”
In a statement to the court, Breivik admitted to carrying out the killings but entered a plea of not gulity, claiming he acted “in self-defense.”
Reporters from hundreds of media outlets worldwide have descended on Oslo for the Breivik trial, parts of which will be televised, a rarity in Norway. Breivik’s witness statements, however, will not be broadcast, to prevent him from using the trial as a political platform for his anti-immigrant views. Instead, dueling psychiatric teams for the prosecution and the defense are expected to present their conflicting opinions of whether Brievik was sane at the time of the killings.
Breivik, 33, has admitted setting off a bomb that killed eight people at government headquarters in Oslo on July 22, and then gunning down 69 people, mostly teenagers, at a Labour Party summer camp.
The trial will hinge on whether Breivik was sane when he carried out the attacks. An initial, court-ordered psychiatric evaluation found him to be psychotic and criminally insane. This led to a public outcry, with many questioning how an insane man could methodically plan such a sophisticated attacks over several years without being detected. A second assessment by a team of Norwegian psychiatrists found that Brievik was sane at the time of the killings.
The accused himself insists he is sane. He wants the attacks to be seen as a political act intended to punish pro-immigration and multi-cultural politicians in Norway. Breivik claims immigration, particularly of Muslim immigrants, is destroying traditional Norwegian society, which he sees as white and Christian.
As part of its verdict, expected by July, a panel of five judges will decide whether Breivik was sane when he carried out the attacks. If deemed sane, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 21 years in prison, though he could be detained for longer if he is deemed a threat to society. If judged insane, Breivik will likely be sentenced to a psychiatric institution for life, or for as long as he is still considered to be mentally ill.
Breivik’s defense team is expected to call on witnesses from the extremes of Norway’s political spectrum to argue that the accused’s fears of a Muslim colonization of Norway were not insane fantasies. Among the figures expected to take the stand are far-right politician Ron Atle and Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi-born Islamist cleric who was sentenced to a five-year-prison term in March for making death threats against Nowegian officials. Karl Hagen, the former leader of the more mainstream anti-immigration Progress Party, to which Breivik briefly belonged, will also be called.
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