Lawyer puts ‘soul on loan’ for Breivik defence

As a member of the ruling Labour Party that Anders Behring Breivik targeted in the twin July 22nd attacks in Oslo, Geir Lippestad would not appear the obvious choice to defend Norway's probably most hated man.

Lawyer puts 'soul on loan' for Breivik defence
Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/Scanpix

But he took the case because of the ideals he cherishes, and which, paradoxically, his client loathes.

"My soul is on loan in this case. I hope to get it back intact, but I'm not sure," Lippestad told AFP. "You're never the same person after a case like this."  

With his shaved head and sombre-looking eyes, the 47-year-old was at first at a loss to explain why Breivik chose him as his defence lawyer, given their diametrically opposed beliefs.

In the 1,500-page manifesto Breivik posted online just before committing the worst massacre in post-war Norway, the 33-year-old rightwing extremist stressed the importance of hiring a "nationalistic oriented lawyer" for a future trial.

"The candidate must be informed that the purpose of your defence is not to ensure the lowest possible sentence but rather to further the cause of saving Europe from Marxism and the subsequent manifestations (Islamisation etc.)," he wrote.

With Geir Lippestad, he drew a blank there.

The lawyer has never hidden his support for the ruling Labour Party, which suffered heavy losses in the July 22nd attacks.

So why him?

The answer can be found in his curriculum vitae.

In 2002, Lippestad defended Ole Nicolai Kvisler, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his part in the 2001 killing of a 15-year-old Norwegian-Ghanaian boy in what was described as "the first racist crime" in Norway's history.

The murder sparked a wave of indignation, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called for "zero tolerance" of racism.

Lippestad thought long and hard before agreeing to defend Breivik.

"My first thought was 'out of the question'. But as my wife, who is a nurse, said: if he had been wounded on Utøya and he had been brought to the hospital where she works, the doctors and nurses would have done what they could to save his life," Lippestad said.

"It's the same thing in the legal system. We have to do whatever we can to protect his interests and it's up to the judges to make the appropriate decision," added the lawyer whose family recently welcomed its eighth child.

A firm believer in the rule of law and democratic values, he stands in stark contrast to Breivik who claims to "detest anyone who believes in democracy".

Since taking the job, Lippestad has received kudos all around, including from the survivors of Utøya, for the way in which he has shouldered the delicate role of protecting his client's interests all the while keeping his distance.

"A lawyer has to ensure that he is not identified with his client," he explained.

"When I relay his comments, I take care to show that they don't reflect my own beliefs."

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Kongsberg attacker killed victims with ‘sharp object’

Norwegian police said Monday that the five victims of last week's attack were killed by a "sharp object" used by the suspect, not a bow and arrows.

The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident.
The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident. Photo by Søren Storm Hansen on Flickr.

“At some point he discarded or lost his bow and arrows,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters.

He said that during the attack on Wednesday the suspect killed “five people with a sharp object both in private addresses and in public spaces”.

Police, who had previously said that the suspect Espen Andersen Brathen was armed with a bow and arrows and two other weapons, did not specify the nature of the sharp weapons, adding that they were still interviewing witnesses.

“Everything points to the victims being selected at random,” Omholt said.

According to the police, more than 10 people were also shot at with arrows at the start of the attack, but none were killed with this weapon.

READ MORE: Norway police query Kongsberg attacker’s Muslim faith

During police questioning, Brathen has confessed to the killings and to wounding three others.

The 37-year-old Danish citizen has announced publicly that he is a convert to Islam and initially police reported that there had been fears of radicalisation.

He is however being kept in a medical facility pending a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

“As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” Omholt added.

On Saturday, police announced the identities of the five victims, four women and one man: Andrea Meyer, 52, Hanne Merethe Englund, 56, Liv Berit Borge, 75, Gunnar Erling Sauve, 75 and Gun Marith Madsen, 78.