• Norway edition
 

Oslo braces for 'world's deadliest shooter' trial

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.

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
Erna Solberg still popular with voters: poll
Norway's first lady in red, Erna Solberg. Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix

Erna Solberg still popular with voters: poll

She has recently faced criticism for a controversial Budget, sent her country to war, and had to cope with a series of climate disasters costing the nation millions, yet Norway's PM Erna Solberg is still proving popular in the polls among Norwegians, a recent survey said on Monday. READ  

Norway wants to launch 'Ministry of Silly Driving'
Winter road conditions can make driving in Norway difficult. Photo: Marius Kallestad / NTB scanpix

Norway wants to launch 'Ministry of Silly Driving'

The government is proposing setting up a crash-course in driving on slippery roads for foreign truck drivers living in Norway. The move is designed to prepare them for navigating the often-treacherous Norwegian winter roads. READ  

Crown Prince celebrates Norway's newest citizens
Crown Prince Hakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit attend the citizenship ceremony in Oslo. Photo: Fredrik Varfjell / NTB scanpix

Crown Prince celebrates Norway's newest citizens

Crown Prince Haakon of Norway was in attendance during a special ceremony on Sunday to welcome hundreds of new Norwegian citizens to his country. READ  

'Norway is proud of you, Magnus,' says Solberg
Magnus Carlsen, happy to be chess world champion again. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

'Norway is proud of you, Magnus,' says Solberg

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg was among the first to congratulate Magnus Carlsen after he defended his World Champion title in chess, on Sunday. PLUS READ  

'I had a feeling today was the day!': Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen winning the 2014 Chess World Championship. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

'I had a feeling today was the day!': Carlsen

Chess superstar Magnus Carlsen lifted the Chess World Championship in Sochi after he defeated India's Viswanathan Anand in the eleventh match of the series, on Sunday. READ  

Ebola scare: Norway airline grounds flight
Ebola scare for Norway arline at Copenhagen airport. Photo: Shutterstock

Ebola scare: Norway airline grounds flight

An SAS plane was emergency landed in Copenhagen airport on Saturday after it was thought a passenger was infected with the Ebola virus. READ  

Shooting in Norway hospital: Man arrested
Police investigate the cause of Saturday night's disturbance at Stavanger University hospital. Photo: NTB scanpix

Shooting in Norway hospital: Man arrested

A man walked into a hospital in South Norway and fired a handgun before he was over-powered by hospital staff on Saturday night. READ  

Norway u-turn to stay in European space program
Photo: Shutterstock

Norway u-turn to stay in European space program

The Norwegian government will stay in the European space satellite program after their proposal to quit it was rejected by rival parties in Parliament, on Friday. READ  

Is Martin Ødegaard going to get Real?
Where to next for Martin Ødegaard, Norway's hottest sports property. Photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix

Is Martin Ødegaard going to get Real?

Norwegian soccer star Martin Ødegaard is set to sign for Spanish club Real Madrid on his sixteenth birthday next month, said latest media reports on Friday. READ  

Wanted for TV doc: UK expats in Nordics
Kevin McCloud will host the television series. Photo: Optomen Television.

Wanted for TV doc: UK expats in Nordics

Have you and your family moved to a snowy wildscape in Scandinavia and set up eco-friendly home? If so, a British film production company would like to hear from you. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Health
Norwegian Ebola victim free of virus
National
Kjell Inge Røkke tops Norway's Rich List
International
Surprise! Norway priciest for home comforts
National
Norway terror attacks to become TV drama
International
Malala: Youngest ever Nobel Peace Laureate
Society
Norwegian 'child bride' to marry in Oslo
Society
The fickle five: Meet the Nobel commitee
National
Norway celebrates 25 years of Sami politics
Business & Money
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
International
Norway best country for older people
Society
Queen Sonja of Norway's nephew jailed
National
Ex-Norway PM set to become head of Nobel
National
Muslim centre wanted on site of Munch Museum
International
Norway to send military staff in fight against IS
National
Father warns Breivik 'more extreme than ever'
Society
Norway's Princess of the Paranormal under fire
National
Four-year-old Norway girl sleepwalks 4km
National
Photo: Baby cliff edge shocker in Norway
Travel
Cruise line offers Northern Lights promise
National
10-tonne shark found dead off Norway coast
Culture
Britney to visit Norway for lingerie launch
International
'If Snowden wins Nobel Prize, arrest him!': MP
Culture
VIDEO: Swim ace does 'Pool Rubik's Challenge'
National
Norwegian man in 7,000 litre 'Ice Truck Challenge'
Society
Norwegian brewery pulls 'fart-smelling' beer
Sport
Ødegaard: Norway's youngest player ever
Features
Meet Norway's raining kings of fashion
National
Miracle cat survives 20 gunshots in Norway
National
Second death within hours at Chess Olympics
National
Norway and Sweden mark 200 years of peace
Culture
Interview: Helene Meldahl, selfie artist
Society
Now serving ... Norway's smallest bar
Travel
Floating Northern Lights hotel planned in Norway
National
Circus camel escapes again
National
Swiss bus driver charged with careless driving in fatal Norway crash
Society
Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Norway
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
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

295
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description