• 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
PM slammed for playing Pokémon at defence hearing
Grande's behaviour during the hearing was all over the Norwegian media. Photo: Stortinget TV / NTB scanpix

She said playing the game helps her "listen better".

Tanks, guns and bras: Norway's women join the draft
Selection exercises during Joint admission and selection camp 2016. Photo: Olav Standal Tangen/Forsvaret

They sweat together, they sleep together: Norway has introduced compulsory military service for women, even bunking them in mixed dorms with their brothers-in-arms.

Norway PM hunts Pokémon in Slovakia
Solberg, shown here at the Arendal political forum earlier this month, said she recently got hooked on Pokémon Go. Photo:Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix

An avid gamer, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg took a break from her official duties in Bratislava this week to hunt for Pokemon monsters in the Slovak capital's old town.

Western Norway braces for extremely heavy rains
Heavy rains in Bergen earlier this month. Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB scanpix

Residents requested to stay off the roads.

Norwegians conquer England in record time
(L-R) Øystein Garfos, Øystein Djupvik, Andreas Munkelien and Gunnar Garfors

Another wacky record in the books for Norway's extreme travellers.

Norway asylum centres report increase in teen prostitution
File photo of an asylum centre in Råde. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Reports increased fivefold between 2014 and 2015 and officials fear there are more unreported cases.

New signs of life in the Norwegian economy
Finance Norway CEO Idar Kreuetzer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix

Positive signals in Finance Norway’s quarterly expectations survey are being interpreted as yet another sign that the Norwegian economy is over the hump.

Car fires in Oslo as burnings reported across Scandinavia
There is no immediate indication that the Oslo car fires are connected to the more than 70 car fires in Malmö, pictured here. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT/Scanpix

No indication that the two car fires in the Norwegian capital are connected to a series of suspected arson attacks in Sweden and Denmark.

Five things to know about the Philippine peace talks in Oslo
Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende greets participants as the peace talks get underway in Oslo on Monday. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Can the talks in Oslo put an end to a nearly 50-year rebellion?

Norway talks spur hopes for Philippine peace deal
(L-R) Jose Maria Sison (NDFP), Elisabeth Slåttum, FM Børge Brende, Jesus Dureza (GPH) and Luis Jalandori begin peace talks. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB Scanpix

Norway-mediated talks aim to end one of Asia's longest insurgencies.

Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Frozen effect bringing 'too many tourists' to Norway
Travel
Frozen effect bringing 'too many tourists' to Norway
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Norway's angel princess divorces novelist husband
Norway's angel princess divorces novelist husband
Norwegian motorist kills 19 reindeer in bloody collision
National
Norwegian motorist kills 19 reindeer in bloody collision
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
'Tick here please': Changing gender in Norway gets easier
Lifestyle
'Tick here please': Changing gender in Norway gets easier
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Danish scientist: Mysterious 'blue blob' caused by weather
National
Danish scientist: Mysterious 'blue blob' caused by weather
Norwegian school permits burkini in swimming classes
Education
Norwegian school permits burkini in swimming classes
Norway's ‘biggest sovereignty concession’ to EU in years
National
Norway makes ‘biggest sovereignty concession’ to EU in years
Norway boosts defence against Russia threat
International
Norway boosts defence against Russia threat
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
FACT-CHECK: No, Norway isn’t banning diesel and petrol cars
National
FACT-CHECK: No, Norway isn’t banning diesel and petrol cars – yet
Norway aims to be climate-neutral by 2030
National
Norway aims to be climate-neutral by 2030
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Migrant numbers plunge as Norway now 'less attractive'
National
Migrant numbers plunge as Norway now 'less attractive'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Record number of kids mark Norway's National Day
Take a ride on Norway's most spectacular road
Travel
Take a ride on Norway's most spectacular road
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
National
All 13 on board die in Norway helicopter crash
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Norway violated mass murderer's human rights: court
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Modern-day Norwegian Viking conquers Instagram
Lifestyle
Modern-day Norwegian Viking conquers Instagram
2,054
jobs available