Breivik met by smirks on the stand

AFP - [email protected]
Breivik met by smirks on the stand

When Anders Behring Breivik took the stand in the Oslo courthouse on Tuesday and spoke of Sitting Bull, sushi and flat screens to explain his mass killings in Norway last year, he was met by smirks, impatience and scoldings.


"Are you almost finished, Breivik?"

Chief judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, visibly irritated, asked Breivik repeatedly to quickly wrap up his reading of a 13-page document on the second day of his trial for the July 22nd attacks that left 77 people dead.

In order to convince judges who were wary of giving the right-wing extremist a platform for his Islamophobic and anti-immigration ideology, the defence team promised that Breivik's speech would not exceed 30 minutes.

The panel of judges agreed to it.

"Only six more pages", "only five more pages", "only three more pages", he said.

Even though his audacity toward the judge triggered smirks and murmurs among survivors and relatives of the victims seated in the courtroom -- until then remarkably composed -- Breivik disregarded the judge's orders to hurry up.

"If I can't lay out the framework of my defence, then there's no point in me explaining myself," he argued, hinting he may not cooperate if he were not allowed to continue.

He went on reading for about an hour and 15 minutes. Eerily, that is almost the same amount of time he used to carry out his shooting spree on Utøya island that claimed the lives of 69 people, mostly teenagers.

He had promised judges he would tone down his rhetoric for the sake of the survivors and relatives of the victims.

Yet the speech was peppered with unbridled passages: "Yes, I would have done it again"; the teenagers on Utøya were "not innocent children"; the Labour Party youth wing is "very similar to Hitler Youth."

In the courtroom, heads were shaking in disbelief.

About half of the 200 people present were survivors and families of the victims and their lawyers, the other half representatives of the media.

He drew parallels between his fight to defend "ethnic Norwegians" from what he perceives as a Muslim invasion and Native American tribal chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse: "Were they terrorists ... or heroes?", he asked, stunning some of those present in the courtroom.

"Multiculturalism is a self-destructive ideology," Breivik claimed, expressing disdain for Norway's generous immigration policy which he said would soon make ethnic Norwegians a minority in their own country.

"All that will be left is sushi and flat screens," he said.

At one point, one of the lawyers for the victims, Mette Yvonne Larsen, objected.

"I have now received so many messages from relatives of the victims and survivors who are reacting to the fact that he is speaking this way. I have to ask him to show them more consideration and to stop now," she told the judge.

But both the defence and the prosecution teams insisted that Breivik be allowed to read to the end of his text.

"It is fair and important" that Breivik be allowed to explain himself, prosecutor Svein Holden told the court.

The head of the Norwegian Lawyers' Association, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said she thought the chief judge "handled the situation well."

"Of course, she could have demonstrated more authority but she thought the moment may come when Breivik refuses to speak. So letting him speak was the only way to ensure that the trial would continue properly," she told AFP.

In the halls of the courthouse, reactions were mixed among the survivors.

"A lot of what he said has nothing to do with the case and there was a lot of invented stuff," said Tore Sinding Bekkedal.

But Ali Esbati disagreed: "I think it's fair and good that he can expand a little bit on what he really thinks."


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