Sentence me to death or set me free: Breivik pleads with court

Killer shows strain on day of tough questioning – as doubt is cast on claims he had English mentor

Norway's self-confessed mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, angrily dismissed the prospect of a lengthy jail term as "pathetic" yesterday and insisted that the death penalty or acquittal were the only "logical" legal responses to his slaughter of 77 people last year.

The 33-year-old right wing fanatic's outburst came after tough questioning from prosecutors on the third day of his trial for carrying out Norway's worst acts of violence since the Second World War. He killed eight in an Oslo bomb blast and shot dead 69 young people attending a Labour Party summer camp last July.

"If I had feared death, I would not have dared to carry out this operation," Breivik boasted to the court in support of his death penalty plea. Observers said his angry and illogical remarks showed that he was beginning to feel the strain of cross examination. Norway abolished the death penalty in 1979.

His outburst followed detailed questioning about his claims to belong to a militant anti-Islamic terrorist organisation called the "Knights Templar" which prosecutors do not believe exists.

Breivik told the court yesterday that prior to carrying out his 2011 massacre, he was "ordained" in London by the group. Pressed about its authenticity, Breivik snapped back at examining prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh, saying "it was not an organisation in the conventional sense" but a group made up of "independent cells".

He then gave the court a brief glimpse into the bizarre and seemingly infantile fantasy world of the so-called "Knights Templar" in which Breivik claimed his English "mentor" was codenamed after the 12th-century crusader "Richard the Lionheart" and Breivik himself was ordained "Sigurd" after a 12th-century Norwegian monarch.

Breivik is said to have attended a meeting of the "Knights Templar" in a café in London in the spring of 2002. He told the court that one of the group's founding members was a Serb nationalist "war hero" who he met in Liberia in 2002. In his manifesto Breivik described the group's members as "brilliant political and military tacticians of Europe".

His descriptions echoed the "manifesto" Breivik posted online shortly before he carried out his devastating attacks. It included a theatrical photographic portrait of him dressed in a black tunic which was covered with sinister pseudo insignia including a death's head pierced by a medieval sword.

Under detailed questioning about the group, he insisted he had not made up anything but refused to comment further. "It is not in my interest to shed light on details that could lead to arrests," he said.

Relatives and friends of Breivik's victims sat behind a bullet proof glass screen as they witnessed the killer making his claims. "I think what we are watching is the revelation of some sort of fantasy or dream," said Christian Bjelland, of the survivors' support group.

Whether the "Knights Templar" exist or are merely a figment of Breivik's imagination is likely to be one of the key factors which will determine the outcome of the trial. If judges rule the group is a fantasy organisation, it will support the conclusion of one psychiatric report which argues that Breivik is a schizophrenic who should spend the rest of his life in care.

However a second psychiatric report recently found Breivik to be sane. If judges accept these findings, he could face a maximum 21-year jail term followed by a custody arrangement which would almost certainly keep him in prison for much longer. Breivik has told his lawyers that he will do all he can to prove to the court that he is sane, not least because a verdict of insanity would completely undermine all his claims.