The right-wing extremist who confessed to killing 77 people in a bomb-and-shooting rampage in Norway is not criminally insane, according to a psychiatric assessment released yesterday.
The new conclusion comes just six days before Anders Behring Breivik is scheduled to go on trial over terror charges for the massacre on 22 July last year and could prompt prosecutors to seek a jail sentence instead of compulsory commitment to psychiatric care.
In a comic aside from the case that rocked Norway last year, Breivik's legal team yesterday posed for publicity pictures in a choreographed photo shoot, which gave the upcoming trial a Hollywood flavour. The photos of Tord Jordet, Odd Ivar Groen, Geir Lippestad and Vibeke Hein Baera could be mistaken for publicity shots for a new American legal TV series – or for a group of commercially savvy ambulance-chasing personal-injury lawyers.
The new psychiatric assessment conflicts with an earlier assessment that found Breivik psychotic during and after the attacks, diagnosing him as a paranoid schizophrenic. The court will take both psychiatric assessments into account during the trial, which starts on Monday and is scheduled to last 10 weeks. The new assessment of Breivik was made by the psychiatrists Terje Toerrissen and Agnar Aspaas on a request from the court after widespread criticism of the first diagnosis. "Our conclusion is that he is not psychotic at the time of the actions of terrorism and he is not psychotic now," Mr Toerrissen said.
One of Breivik's lawyers said he was "pleased" by the assessment. He recently wrote a letter to a Norwegian tabloid newspaper saying that being forced into psychiatric care would be a "fate worse than death". He wrote: "To send a political activist to an asylum is more sadistic and more evil than killing him!"
The full report was confidential and the psychiatrists declined to give details on why they reached a different conclusion than the first team of experts. They said they will present their reasoning when they testify in the trial.
Breivik has confessed to setting off the bomb in Oslo, killing eight people, and opening fire at a youth camp, killing 69 others. But he denies criminal guilt, saying the attacks were necessary in what he calls a civil war against Islam in Europe.