Anders Breivik admits massacre but pleads not guilty claiming it was self defence


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The Independent Online

A right wing extremist who admitted killing 77 people in a gun and bomb rampage in Norway last year has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, claiming he was acting in self defence.

Anders Behring Breivik, 33, admitted killing 69 people in a mass shooting at a Labor Party organised youth camp on Utoya Island, 25 miles outside Oslo, as well as killing eight others in a car bombing in the Norwegian capital’s government district.

Upon entering the courtroom and having his cuffs removed, Breivik put his right hand to his heart and extended it into a closed fist salute before shaking hands with prosecutors and court officials.

Sitting behind bullet-proof glass, Breivik used his opening comments to say "I do not recognise the Norwegian court. You have got your mandate from political parties who support multiculturalism.”

He added that he does not recognise the authority of Judge Wenche Elisabeth Arntzen as she is known to be a personal friend of the sister of former Norwegian Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Wearing a dark suit, a loosely knotted tie and sporting a thin beard, a smirking Breivik told the court: "I admit to the acts, but not criminal guilt," insisting he had acted in self-defense. Breivik has said the attacks were necessary to protect Norway from multiculturalism and Islam, adding they were intended to punish "traitors" whose pro-immigration policies were contaminating Norwegian blood.

Breivik remained expressionless as the terror and murder charges against him were read out, and when details of his planning and descriptions of how each victim died, were given.

Suppressing yawns, cracking his knuckles and taking sips of water, Breivik stared down at the indictment papers as prosecutors gave detailed reports of the massacre. Some descriptions were so graphic that Norwegian television censored them.

As an anti-Islamic propaganda video he posted on YouTube was played to the court, the previously emotionless Breivik began to cry, wiping tears from his cheeks with trembling hands.

"I think he feels sorry for himself," said Mette Yvonne Larsen, one of the lawyers representing Breivik’s victims. "His project didn't work out, that's why he's crying. He's not crying for the victims ... he's crying over his extremely childish film."

After a break for lunch, Breivik sat stony-faced as prosecutors presented CCTV footage of the Oslo explosion, which took place on July 22 last year. The blast ripped through the government headquarters, blowing out windows and filling surrounding streets with smoke and debris.

Prosecutors were then played a recording of an emergency call made by one of the summer campers hiding in the bathroom of a café on Utoya Island.

As 13 people in the cafe were shot dead, Renate Taarnes screamed "There's shooting all the time, I've seen many injured. He's inside". With shots ringing out in the background she was heard saying "He's coming... he's coming".

Breivik shot most of his victims several times, often using the first shot to immobilise his target, then killing them with a second shot to the head.

Police took over an hour to get to the island, delayed by chaos in Oslo in the aftermath of the bombing.

More than 200 people in the purpose built courtroom heard how Breivik had been living with his mother in Oslo before renting a farm, which he used as a cover for large orders of fertilizer with which he made the bomb.

Prosecutors said how Breivik was obsessed with the World of Warcraft video game, which prompted a judge to ask if the game was violent. Breivik smiled as an image of his World of Warcraft character was shown to the court.

Disguised as a police officer, Breivik managed to lure some of his victims out of hiding, convincing them that help had arrived. Other victims were shot as they jumped into the water surrounding the island. Prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh spoke of the "panic and mortal fear in children, youths and adults" trapped on the island.

A key issue in the 10-week trial will be the state of Breivik’s mental health. If deemed mentally competent by the five judge panel, Breivik would face a maximum prison sentence of 21 years, but could be held indefinitely if still considered a threat at the end of his sentence. If declared insane, he would be held in a psychiatric institution indefinitely, with periodic reviews.

An initial psychiatric evaluation concluded that Breivik was criminally insane but after criticism of that verdict, a second examination was commissioned. The result of that examination, completed last week, found no evidence of mental illness.

While he faces spending the rest of his life behind bars, Breivik is fighting to prove his sanity, saying being labeled insane would be a "fate worse than death".

Breivik’s defence team has called 29 witnesses to argue his sanity, aiming to prove Breivik’s views on multiculturalism are shared by many others and are not the result of psychosis.

His proposed witnesses include Mullah Krekar, the founder of Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, who was recently jailed in Norway for making death threats, and "Fjordman", a right-wing blogger who has had a profound influence on Breivik.

There is fear in Norway that Breivik will succeed in turning the trial into an international platform for his extremist views.

In a 1,500 page manifesto he posted online before the killing, Breivik wrote "Your arrest will mark the initiation of the propaganda phase....Your trial offers you a stage to the world."

In a recent letter seen by the VG newspaper, Breivik said “"The court case looks like it will be a circus ... it is an absolutely unique opportunity to explain the idea of (the manifesto) to the world."