Breivik: 'I admit the acts, but not to criminal guilt. I do not plead guilty, I was acting in self-defence'


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The Independent Online

There was only one dramatic moment when Anders Behring Breivik seemed to crack yesterday.

Norway's mass murderer sat in Oslo's court 250 at the opening of his trial for the slaughter of 77 people, looking impassive and chillingly defiant. Sometimes he even smirked.

But suddenly the 33-year-old killer's lips began to pucker and tighten. His chin started to quiver uncontrollably. Then tears welled in his eyes and as he wiped them away with trembling fingers, it became obvious that the man responsible for Norway's worst act of violence since the Second World War was crying.

Was it a first sign of remorse? Not a bit of it. Breivik was overcome by emotion at the sound of his own voice.

He wept as he watched the prosecution's recording of his own fanatical propaganda film, which he posted on the internet only hours before carrying out the twin acts of terrorism that have plunged Norway into the trauma from which it is still trying to recover.

He told his lawyer later he found his film "emotional".

Claiming that he was engaged in a European war against Marxist multiculturalism and Muslim domination, Breivik detonated a massive fertiliser bomb in Oslo's government district on 22 July last year that killed eight people.

Disguised as a police commando, he went to the island of Utoya where several hundred young members of Norway's ruling Labour Party were attending a summer camp. Equipped with a rifle, grenades and a handgun, he then set about slaughtering 69 mostly teenage participants.

But yesterday the self-confessed mass killer tried to cast himself in the role of Norway's lone crusader against multiculturalism. The relatives and friends of those murdered by Breivik sat behind a bullet-proof screen in the courtroom and watched aghast as the killer thrust his right arm forward with a clenched fist.

"I don't recognise Norwegian courts because you get your mandate from the Norwegian political parties which support multiculturalism," Breivik told the presiding judge Wenche Elisabeth Arntzen quietly. "I admit to the acts, but not to criminal guilt. I do not plead guilty, I was acting in self-defence," insisted Breivik.

Several relatives of Breivik's victims wept as the evidence against him was read out. One young woman, a sister of a young Labour party member shot dead on Utoya, collapsed during a break in the proceedings.

John Hestnes, who lost a close friend in the Oslo bomb, was in court to watch the trial. "I prepared myself. I watched all the films and read everything in advance, but being here is much tougher than I thought it would be," he said.

It was the prosecution lawyers who were left to describe the full extent of Breivik's gun rampage in shocking detail. For more than an hour the names of all of the 77 victims and those he wounded were read out. Prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh listed forensic report after report, explaining how rounds fired from the killer's handgun and rifle smashed the skulls, vertebrae, limbs and faces of his innocent victims as they tried to flee.

Svein Holden, a second state prosecutor, explained at length what happened during the 15 years of Breivik's life that preceded his attacks. It was the story of academic failure at school, a subsequent drift into a job as a telephone salesman and then a decision to set up a series of failed companies.