The Norwegian militant who massacred 77 people last summer gave a clenched-fist salute, smirked at the court and said he acted to defend his country against Muslims on the first day of a trial that threatens to turn into a “circus” showcasing his far-right views.
Anders Behring Breivik, 33, has admitted to setting off a car bomb that killed eight people at government headquarters in Oslo in July last year, then killing 69 in a shooting spree at a summer youth camp on an island organized by the ruling Labor Party.
The real question of the trial is whether Breivik will be declared insane or criminal. While he risks staying behind bars for the rest of his life, the high school dropout has said being labeled insane would be a “fate worse than death.”
Wearing a suit and loose tie, Breivik entered the court in handcuffs, which were taken off just before he was seated. He smirked several times as the cuffs were removed, put his right fist on his heart then extended his hand in salute.
“I do not recognize the Norwegian courts. You have received your mandate from political -parties which support multiculturalism,” Breivik told the court after refusing to stand when judges entered the courtroom.
“I acknowledge the acts, but not criminal guilt as I claim self defense,” he said, seated in front of a bullet-proof glass wall.
Occasionally suppressing a yawn and sipping water, he stared down at the indictment papers, following without visible emotion a list of his killings as the prosecutor read out each one. Some details were so graphic that Norwegian television bleeped out descriptions of the massacres.
The trial is scheduled to last 10 weeks and has raised fears that it could reopen wounds in Norway, a country that prides itself on its tolerant and peaceful society.
The “lone wolf” killer intends to say he was defending Norway against multiculturalism and Islam. He says the attacks were intended as punishment of “traitors” whose pro-immigration policies were adulterating Norwegian blood.
More than 200 people took seats in the specially built Oslo courtroom, while about 700 attack survivors and family members of victims watched on closed-circuit video around the country.