• Norway edition
 

Oslo braces for 'world's deadliest shooter' trial

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

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.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Mother and son die in motorcycle crash tragedy
Mother and son hit a mobile caravan on E6 in Norway. Photo: Motorcycle helmet on a wet street

Mother and son die in motorcycle crash tragedy

A mother and her 16-year-old son died when the motorcycle they were riding hit a mobile caravan in Gudbrandsdalen on Tuesday. READ  

Norwegian boy stung by scorpion on ferry
Eight-year-old survives potentially deadly insect bite. Photo: Scorpion crawling Shutterstock

Norwegian boy stung by scorpion on ferry

The scorpion caused havoc on a ferry trip between Denmark and Norway after the creature bit an eight-year-old boy and forced the vessel to head for emergency aid on Tuesday. READ  

Beach cleaners find polar bear stuck in net
Polar bear gets caught up in an Arctic cleaning project in Norway. Photo: Polar bear paw Shutterstock

Beach cleaners find polar bear stuck in net

A polar bear trapped in a net was one of the stranger discoveries found by volunteers in Northern Norway, working on a beach cleaning project this year. READ  

Camel goes walkabout on Norway roundabout
Police rescued an escaped circus camel in Trøndelag. Photo: Tor Aage Hansen / NTB scanpix

Camel goes walkabout on Norway roundabout

A circus camel had to be rescued after it escaped its owners and went for a walk around a Norwegian town on Tuesday. READ  

Government vows to cover costs of terror alert
Minister of Finance Siv Jensen will take care of the terror alert costs. Photo: Anette Karlsen / NTB scanpix

Government vows to cover costs of terror alert

The government will cover the additional costs incurred by the police and other organizations linked to the terror threat, said Norway's minister of finance. READ  

Feature
Interview: Jan Berglund, Chess Olympiad ambassador
Jan Sigmund Berglund, head event coordinator of the Chess Olympiad 2014, held in Norway.

Interview: Jan Berglund, Chess Olympiad ambassador

In August the Chess Olympiad comes to Tromsø. 181 countries take part, crowning it the third biggest sporting event in the world. The Local makes its move to meet Jan Sigmund Berglund, head event coordinator of the event and a key ambassador of the sport in the Arctic Circle. READ  

Muslim leaders must curb extremism: Labour
Jonas Gahr Støre. Photo: Vegard Grøtt / NTB scanpix

Muslim leaders must curb extremism: Labour

Muslim leaders must take more responsibility for stopping hardline extremism, said Norway's Labour Party chairman on Tuesday, in the wake of the terror alerts in Norway. READ  

Swedish terrorism expert slams Norway terror alert
Information or propaganda? Statsbygg put up a poster about the terror incidents on the 22nd of July 2011 and plans for the work on the damaged government buildings. Photo: Berit Roald / Scanpix

Swedish terrorism expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism researcher has blasted Norway's handling of its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total intelligence failure". READ  

Norway set to reduce terror alert
Jon Ståle Stamnes, Assistant National Police Commissioner at The Norwegian Police Directorate. Photo: Audun Braastad / NTB scanpix

Norway set to reduce terror alert

Norway's terror alert level will be reduced from Tuesday, but security will still be somewhat tighter than normal, police chiefs said on Monday. READ  

Security fears disrupt Norway soccer cup
Prime Minister Erna Solberg visits Norway Cup on Ekebergsletta, Oslo. She poses with players from Norway and Malawi. Photo: Audun Braastad / NTB scanpix

Security fears disrupt Norway soccer cup

The world's biggest football tournament opened in Norway on Sunday, amid fears the current terror threat may mar the sporting spectacle. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Norway
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
National
Norway lifts Segway ban
Culture
GALLERY: Ten great songs about Norway
Society
Høie promises to reform sex change law
Education
Norway fjord invaded by monster jellyfish
Culture
VIDEO: Norwegian anti-Facebook film goes viral
Culture
Norway pop duo hits number 4 on US charts
Sport
Norway fan wins big on Suarez bite bet
National
Solberg 'most chatty' leader on Twitter
Culture
British Airways takes 'Slow TV' to the skies
International
Top Norway lawyers back Snowden Nobel
Society
Buy your own Viking warship for just €160,000
Politics
Norway PM beats Candy Crush level 300
Culture
Norway sticks with fårikål as national dish
International
Cold bathing craze leads to teen death
Society
Sweden threatens to 'annex' the ostehøvel
National
Baby squirrels survive cat attack
Society
Norway's 'cushy' prisons spurring foreign cons
National
Half Norwegians overweight: Gates study
International
VIDEO: Jagland doing press-ups in Donetsk
Business & Money
Striking Norway barbers: 'Let your hair grow'
Culture
Rihanna 'hard to please', Norway's Stargate reveal
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

354
jobs available