The trial of Anders Behring Breivik ended yesterday after a dramatic walkout by victims' relatives as the Norwegian mass killer pleaded with judges to consider him sane and told them he had carried out the killings of 77 people in an attempt to stop a Muslim invasion of Europe.
More than 30 relatives and friends of those killed in last July's devastating Oslo bomb attack and shooting massacre on the fjord island of Utoya got up and filed out of the court as Breivik began summing up his motives for committing Norway's worst acts of violence since the Second World War.
Members of victim support groups made it clear their gesture was meant as a protest against Breivik and not the court. "He has a right to talk but we have no duty to listen to him," said Christin Bjelland. Norwegian television broadcast sections of the closing stages of the 10-week trial which began in Oslo in April. However, cameras were withdrawn when Breivik made his final statement to the judges in which he attempted to justify his acts of mass murder.
Presenting the defence case, Breivik's lawyer, Geir Lippestad, depicted his client as a cool-headed, right-wing political extremist. He asked the judges to consider him sane and fully accountable for his actions. He insisted that nothing in Breivik's life until the "inferno of violence" on 22 July last year indicated that he was a violent person.
"The mother of these actions is not violence," Mr Lippestad told the court. "It is an extreme, radical political attitude and his actions must be perceived from the standpoint of right-wing extremist culture." The defence arguments followed submissions by the prosecution on Thursday which called for Breivik to be taken into psychiatric care because there were doubts about his sanity. Psychiatrists are divided over Breivik's mental state. One doctor's report has concluded that he is a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic. Another maintains that he is sane.
Mr Lippestad said that the fact "safe little Norway would be hit by such a terror attack is almost impossible to understand". He argued that the inconceivable nature of the offence explained why psychiatric experts had reached different conclusions about his client. Describing Breivik as an ordinary young man with good friends and colleagues, Mr Lippestad asked: "How would a man who was mentally ill have been allowed to join a shooting club?"
Breivik, 33, said at the beginning of his trial that to be deemed insane and committed to psychiatric care would be "worse than death". The anti-Muslim extremist made it clear that he favoured jail as it would allow him to portray himself as a political prisoner and a champion of the far right.
Many Norwegians are uncomfortable with the possibility of an insanity verdict, as it would absolve Breivik of criminal responsibility. The mass killer has claimed he is a founding member of a crusading far-right Muslim order called the Knights Templar whose mission is to prevent an impending Muslim domination of Europe. Prosecution lawyers said they did not believe the organisation existed.
Breivik has claimed that his political convictions drove him to detonate a bomb in central Oslo last July and then shoot and kill 69 youth members of Norway's ruling Labour Party attending a summer camp on Utoya island.
The judges will deliver their ruling on 24 August. Whatever their decision Breivik is likely to be detained for the rest of his life.