Norway waits to see if mass killer Breivik is held responsible
JUDGMENT in the trial of Anders Behring Breivik is expected tomorrow, and after the Oslo court delivers its verdict, Norway is hoping to return to something like normality.
Breivik’s ten-week trial for the slaughter of 77 people last year has raised issues of how a country with liberal and conservative traditions balances its security needs with the issues of state surveillance, gun control and rising immigration.
“We are no longer so naive to believe that Norway is the best country in the world,” said Mette Yvonne Larsen, one of the three lawyers in court representing victims of Breivik’s 22 July attack. “It has made us understand we are a part of international society. We cannot solve problems by ourselves.”
For survivors such as Khamshajiny Gunaratnam, the most pressing need is to hear the verdict after a trial that went into every detail of Breivik’s bomb attack in Oslo that killed eight, and his shooting dead on Utoeya island of 69 people, mostly teenagers. “After 24 August, we can be done with it,” Ms Gunaratnam said.
With what witnesses described as a “joyous battle cry”, Breivik arrived at the island youth camp of the ruling Labour party dressed as a policeman. He regarded his victims, the youngest of whom was 14, as brainwashed “cultural Marxists” whose support for Muslim immigration threatened Norwegian ethnic purity.
Ms Gunaratnam, 24, escaped by jumping into icy lake waters and swimming for her life. She survived because Breivik was busy shooting her friends in the head at point-blank range, presuming she would drown.
The verdict itself is not about Breivik’s guilt but whether, as prosecutors argue, he is insane.
If Breivik is declared sane, his maximum sentence is 21 years, although this can be extended if he is seen as a danger to society. If declared insane, he faces indefinite mental care under lock and key.
His lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said Breivik, 33, has prepared remarks. He said: “He wants to be held responsible. He thought about what he wanted to say to the judges and so has prepared a few lines for every outcome.”
Another of his lawyers, Tord Jordet, said his client is working on an autobiography in which he would detail his preparations for the attacks and include revelations about the mysterious Knights Templar.
Breivik claims he began his crusade in 2002 as part of the Knights Templar – an organisation whose existence police have never been able to confirm.
Breivik, the son of a former diplomat, is being held in a three-room cell. He has a computer, a treadmill to keep fit, access to newspapers and TV and is allowed out daily to stroll in the fresh air. Whatever the verdict, Breivik will probably spend the rest of his life in similar conditions, underscoring what some Norwegians regard as an excessive civility in the face of the cold-blooded killings.
Lawyers for the survivors say some do not care about the verdict while others would prefer Breivik be declared sane, meaning he is held responsible.
Breivik himself wants to be ruled sane and his attack considered a political statement rather than an act of lunacy. He has said an insanity verdict would be “a fate worse than death” and that he would appeal it, prolonging the survivors’ ordeal.
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