Wed, Jul 27, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Norway’s justice minister defends police response

AFTERMATH:Prosecutors mull whether the attacks could be considered crimes against humanity, but the suspect’s lawyer said his client ‘is insane’

Reuters, OSLO

Norway’s justice minister yesterday hailed “fantastic” police work after Anders Behring Breivik killed at least 76 people, setting aside criticisms that police had reacted too slowly to a shooting massacre.

Although Breivik has spoken of “two more cells,” police believe he probably acted alone in Friday’s bombing and shooting attacks, which have united Norwegians in revulsion.

“It is very important that we have an open and critical approach ... but there is a time for everything,” Knut Storberget said after talks with Oslo’s police chief, referring to questions, mostly in the media, about the police response time.

An armed SWAT team took more than an hour to reach Utoeya island, where Breivik was coolly shooting terrified youngsters at a ruling Labor Party youth camp. He killed 68 there and eight in an earlier bombing of Oslo’s government district.

Police were likely to release the names of the victims yesterday, a day after they revised the death toll from 93 to 76, the NTB news agency said.

Storberget also denied police had ignored threats posed by right-wing zealots in Norway. “I reject suggestions that we have not had the far-right under the microscope,” he said.

Breivik, 32, told a judge at his custody hearing on Monday that two other cells in his “organization” existed.

However, a source close to the investigation said: “We feel that the accused has fairly low credibility when it comes to this claim but none of us dare to be completely dismissive about it either.”

Prosecutors will consider whether Breivik’s acts fall under a 2008 law on crimes against humanity, said Staale Eskeland, professor of criminal law at Oslo University.

“To kill a group of civilians systematically is the basic criteria” for charges of crimes against humanity, Eskeland said, adding that the maximum penalty for this offence was 30 years in jail, rather than 21 years under the anti-terrorism law.

In both cases the sentence can be extended for up to five years at a time if there is risk of repeat offences.

So far Breivik has been charged with “destabilizing or destroying basic functions of society” and “creating serious fear in the population.”

LAWYER

Meanwhile, Breivik is in all likelihood insane, his lawyer said yesterday.

“This whole case indicated that he is insane,” Geir Lippestad told reporters.

It was too early to say if his client would plead insanity, he said.

Trying to explain his client’s mindset, Lippestad said: “He says he is sorry he had to do this but it is necessary … He hates all the Western ideas and the values of democracy ... he expects that this is the start of a war that will last 60 years.”

“He looks upon himself as a warrior. He starts this war and takes some kind of pride in that,” Lippestad said.

Lippestad said Breivik had used “some kind of drugs” before the crime to keep strong and awake, and was surprised he had not been killed during the attacks or en route to Monday’s court hearing.

Lippestad said he would quit if Breivik did not agree to psychological tests.

A leading Norwegian forensic psychiatrist and adviser to the police said it was unlikely Breivik would be found to be psychotic and therefore unaccountable for his actions, or even to be able to claim diminished responsibility.

“In Norway you are not accountable for crime and getting sentenced to jail if you display a typical psychosis with hallucinations, delusional ideas or disturbances and this has been the case for a while,” said Yngve Ystad, a consultant in forensic psychiatry at Oslo University Hospital.

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