• Norway's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Oslo braces for 'world's deadliest shooter' trial

AFP · 10 Apr 2012, 09:18

Published: 10 Apr 2012 09:18 GMT+02:00

While there is no doubt the 33-year-old right-wing extremist is the killer -- he has confessed but refused to plead guilty -- the main unresolved question is his mental state and whether he will be sent to prison or a closed psychiatric ward.

On July 22nd, Breivik first set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people and injuring more than 200 others.

He then travelled to the small island of Utøya northwest of the capital where the ruling Labour Party's youth organisation was hosting a summer camp.

Dressed as a police officer, he spent more than an hour methodically shooting and killing another 69 people, mainly terrified teenagers trapped in by the icy waters of the surrounding lake.

Never before has a shooting by a single individual claimed as many victims, according to Jack Levin and James Alan Fox, the authors of several books on serial killers and mass murderers.

"There have been larger massacres using other kinds of weapons, but none so large by gunfire," said Levin, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston.

"Terrorists are usually interested in maximizing body counts, so they use explosives," as in the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people in April 1995, he wrote in an email to AFP.

Breivik, who has claimed to be on a crusade against the "Muslim invasion" of Europe and the multi-culturalism embraced by Norway's centre-left government and especially Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's Labour Party, has described his actions as "cruel but necessary".

In a rare reversal of habitual roles, the defence attorneys are, upon request from their client, arguing that he is of sound mind and therefore responsible for his actions, while the prosecution has said it wants him declared criminally insane, in line with an expert evaluation.

The right-wing extremist, who has said being sent to a psychiatric ward would be "worse than death", wants to be declared sane, according to his lawyers, so as not to damage the political message presented in his 1,500-page manifesto published online shortly before the attacks.

The defence also argues that Breivik should not be locked up forever.

"A life sentence does not exist in Norway. At one point, he will be back out in society, not in the near future, but in many years," his main lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said recently.

But even though Norway has a maximum limit of 21 years behind bars, Breivik could still face life in prison due to a special provision that allows for extensions of his term for as long as he is considered a danger to society.

If the prosecution gets its way and Breivik is found criminally insane, however, he will instead be sentenced to treatment in a locked psychiatric institution, possibly for life.

Late last year, two psychiatric experts carried out a court-mandated evaluation and concluded he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and could therefore not be sentenced to prison.

That conclusion caused outcry in Norway, and the Oslo court has ordered a second evaluation by two new experts set to present their findings on Tuesday.

In the end, however, the five Oslo court judges will determine whether Breivik should be considered sane when they present their verdict, probably around mid-July.

Whether he goes to prison or a psychiatric institution, prosecutors say he should never be set free.

"We would have a very hard time seeing him walking the street a free man in a few years," Svein Holden, one of two prosecutors in charge of the case, told AFP.

Story continues below…

Ordinarily serene Norway was deeply shocked by the attacks, which unleashed emotional scenes of unity and sparked deep, nationwide self-reflection on the delicate balance between democratic openness and security.

Norway's response to the violence, Stoltenberg vowed after the attacks, would be "more democracy, more openness, more humanity, but without naivety".

Hundreds of journalists from some 210 news organisations from around the world have signed up to cover the 10-week trial, with proceedings in the Oslo district court set to be broadcast live to 17 local courthouses around the country to accommodate more than 770 survivors and families of victims figuring as plaintiffs.

"From the point of view of both the seriousness of the crime and the logistics, this is the most important trial we've ever had to organise," Oslo district court presiding judge Geir Engebretsen said.

Nearly nine months after the carnage, the victims' families meanwhile say they are only waiting for one thing: for justice to be served.

"We want a clean, serious and dignified trial to ensure that the guilty party is convicted and that light is shed on what happened on July 22nd," Trond Blattmann, who heads a support group for the families and who himself lost a son on Utøya, told AFP.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Norway's oil fund to take on executive pay controversy
If the fund takes a stance on executive pay, it could be felt in corner offices around the world. Photo: Iris/Scanpix

Norway could greatly influence the global debate on CEO salaries with a change to its investment strategies.

Looming strike could paralyse Norway public services
Representatives of the four large trade union confederations and state representative Gisle Norheim (centre). Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

The state is "very far" from a labour agreement with some 100,000 public employees.

All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
Rescue crews reported no signs of survivors. Photo: Marit Hommedal/Scanpix

UPDATED: Eleven dead bodies have been recovered and the two remaining people are presumed dead.

Modern-day Norwegian Viking conquers Instagram
A throw-back photo before the beard and hair reached their full potential. Photo: Lasse Matberg/Instagram

Hot enough to melt snow, this apparent reincarnation of Thor has captured hearts the world over.

Norway's sovereign fund posts negative return
Yngve Slyngstad, CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix

Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's biggest, posted a negative return in the first quarter after being tapped by the government to balance its budget for the first time ever.

Philippine troops attack Norwegian hostage's captors
Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad (right) in a still from a previous video released by SITE. Photo: Screen Grab

Philippine warplanes on Thursday attacked Islamic militants holding a Norwegian and 19 other foreign hostages.

Norway vows to change child welfare practices
Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne has announced a series of changes to how the Norwegian Child Welfare Service operates. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix

Following global protests, Norway prepares changes and reviews of the Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet).

Statoil tops expectations to stay in the black
The Statoil headquarters in Fornebu. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix

Norwegian oil giant Statoil held up better against lower oil prices than expected.

Philippines vows military strike on Norwegian's captors
The Abu Sayyaf terrorists have killed one captive and have threatened to kill the others, including Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad (right). Photo: NTB Scanpix

Following the execution of a Canadian hostage, Philippine President Benigno Aquino says he will 'neutralize' the terrorists still holding a Norwegian and up to 20 others.

Norway cabin gets 'Frozen' treatment at Disney World
When Disney World visitors enter the Royal Sommerhus, they'll actually be entering a replica of this cottage at Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum. Photo: Sverresborg Trøndelag Folk Museum

Kids will be able to meet Elsa and Anna in a replica of a Trondheim cottage.

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
National
Norway violated mass murderer's human rights: court
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
Norway to allow gay church weddings
Society
Church of Norway to allow same-sex weddings
Norway to allow gay church weddings
Society
Church of Norway to allow same-sex weddings
For first time, majority in Norway don’t believe in God
Society
For first time, majority in Norway don’t believe in God
Norway preps 'breakthrough' on gender change
Health
Norway preps 'breakthrough' on gender change
Breivik says he'll fight 'to the death' for Nazism
National
Breivik says he'll fight 'to the death' for Nazism
National
Memo: Norway 'not mentally prepared' for refugees' impact
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Norway is the world's fourth happiest country
Society
Norway is the world's fourth happiest country
Norway moves closer to allowing dual citizenship
National
Norway moves closer to allowing dual citizenship
Politics
Norway's tough asylum plans face resistance
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose International Health Insurance
National
'Patriot' group Soldiers of Odin debut in Norway
National
Oslo is the real ‘Capital of Scandinavia’
Health
Norway ads use Hitler teddy bear to scare parents... about dust
National
Migrants: Norway 'sending us to death' in Russia
Norway under fire over tough new asylum plans
Health
Norway doctors push plan for 'tobacco-free generation'
2,107
jobs available