• 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.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Photo: Baby cliff edge shocker in Norway
This baby faced a drop of 600 meters while crawling on the edge of Pulpit Rock in Ryfylke. Photo: Fred Sirevåg / NTB scanpix

Photo: Baby cliff edge shocker in Norway

A hillwalker in one of Norway's most popular tourist spots captured the chilling moment a baby was left to pose for his parents just centimeters from death on Sunday. READ  

'Expect change in Sweden', says Støre
Norway's Labour party leader Jonas Gahr Støre gives his prediction for the Sweden general election. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / NTB scanpix

'Expect change in Sweden', says Støre

Chairman of the Norwegian Labour Party, Jonas Gahr Støre, believes the polls point to a change of government in Sweden as the votes are counted on Sunday night. READ  

Budapest stages Hungary / Norway demo

Budapest stages Hungary / Norway demo

Around 1,000 people took to the streets of Budapest at the weekend to protest against the government's crackdown on civil society, following police raids on two Norway-backed NGOs. READ  

Attacker charged with 84 sex crimes in Norway
A 20-year-old man from Gudbrandsdalen charged for multiple sex attacks on young girls. Photo: Man in a mask showing hand to attack Shutterstock

Attacker charged with 84 sex crimes in Norway

A notorious sex attacker from South-East Norway has been charged on Friday for raping two 14-year-old girls and infecting them with Chlamydia, bringing his tally of sex crimes on underage girls to 84 in under two years. READ  

Norwegian parents jailed for abusing 'devil' child
A girl was attacked by her parents in Arendal for calling out the Devil's name. Photo: Shutterstock

Norwegian parents jailed for abusing 'devil' child

A Norwegian couple were sentenced to jail after being found guilty of violence to their daughter after the child allegedly cried out "Satan", a court ruled on Thursday. READ  

Swedish MPs look to Norway for votes
Stefan Löfven (left) and current Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on SVT televised debate to decide who will be the country's next leader. Photo: Henrik Montgomery / NTB Scanpix

Swedish MPs look to Norway for votes

Sweden's general election campaign has spilled over into Norway as political parties pursue votes among the tens of thousands of mostly young Swedes emigrating to find work with their Nordic neighbour. READ  

Oslo Olympic's bid at 175m kroner and rising
City councillor for culture and business, Halstein Bjercke, unveils the logo for Oslo's Olympics 2022 bid. Photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix

Oslo Olympic's bid at 175m kroner and rising

The agency responsible for raising the profile of Oslo to win the bid for the Winter Olympics 2022 has spent 175 million kroner (£27.5 million) to date, it was revealed on Thursday. READ  

Crown Prince Haakon rocks the crowd
Crown Prince Haakon plays electric guitar in Vestvågøy, North Norway. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix

Crown Prince Haakon rocks the crowd

Guests at a gig in Vestvågøy, North Norway, were treated to a special guest performance from Norway's Crown Prince Haakon who took to the stage with an electric guitar on Thursday. READ  

Ships without crew set for the seas
In the near-future merchant ships may sail with the aid of technology, not humans. Photo: Luigi Cotrufo / Scanpix

Ships without crew set for the seas

Researchers based in Norway believe that in around 10 years time cargo ships will have the technology to sail the seas without the need of a captain or crew. READ  

Norway asks EU to take action on Hungary
Minister for European Affairs Vidar Helgesen. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Norway asks EU to take action on Hungary

Tensions between Norway and Hungary escalated after the Nordic country on Thursday asked the EU to consider measures to counter "a hollowing out of democratic values" the eastern European country. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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
National
Solberg 'most chatty' leader on Twitter
Culture
British Airways takes 'Slow TV' to the skies
International
Top Norway lawyers back Snowden Nobel
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

350
jobs available