OSLO, Norway (AP) – A trial that has riveted Norway for 10 weeks came to an end Friday. Confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik must then wait a month or two for a ruling by the Oslo district court.
Since his guilt is not in question _ Breivik admits he killed 77 people in a bombing and shooting massacre on July 22 _ the key issue is whether the self-styled anti-Muslim militant will be ruled insane. If so he cannot be sentenced to prison but will be committed to compulsory psychiatric care, possibly for the rest of his life.
Here are some of the key moments in the trial, which started on April 16 in a courtroom built specifically for the trial in Oslo’s district court.
On the first day Breivik cried. It’s the only time he showed any emotion during the trial. The tears rolled down his cheeks when prosecutors showed a YouTube video he posted online before the attacks, outlining his perception that Muslims are colonizing Europe and that Christian Europeans will rise up in armed revolt. Breivik’s defense lawyer Geir Lippestad said that the 33-year-old Norwegian was moved by being reminded of his self-imposed mission to “save Europe from an ongoing war.”
For the first two days Breivik greeted the court with his own version of a fascist salute. He stopped after his lawyers told him that the victims’ families found it offensive. On the penultimate day, after prosecutors asked for an insanity ruling that he rejected, the salute was back. Defiantly, Breivik thrust out his right arm with a clenched fist. This time he directed it straight at the prosecutors.
Survivors of the bombing in Oslo and the shooting massacre on Utoya island gave harrowing accounts of Breivik’s rampage. But the most gruesome testimony was from the gunman himself. Sparing no detail, he took a shocked courtroom through his killing spree on Utoya, victim by victim, bullet by bullet. His voice never cracked. His facial expression remained blank. Breivik’s utter lack of emotion and empathy was seen by some psychiatrists as a symptom of a deep mental illness. Breivik said he had prepared himself to keep his composure through meditation.
It was the only outburst of anger during the entire trial: An Iraqi man whose brother was killed on Utoya took off his shoe and tossed it at Breivik on May 11, hitting one of his defense lawyers. The hearing was briefly suspended as the man was led out of the court, crying. Besides that incident, the relatives of victims kept remarkably calm, saying they wanted to respect the judicial process. Some said Breivik must not have any opportunity to claim he didn’t get a fair trial when it’s all over.
The last weeks of the trial focused on Breivik’s mental state. Two teams of court-appointed psychiatrists presented clashing views. Other experts were called in to give their opinion. Prosecutors finally said there was enough doubt about whether Breivik is psychotic that Norwegian rules required them to call for an insanity ruling. Breivik, who claims he is a political militant, said during the trial that being sent to an insane asylum would be the worst thing that could happen to him and accused Norwegian authorities of trying to cast him as sick to deflate his political views. His defense lawyers rebutted the insanity claim Friday.
The five-judge panel has not set the date of the ruling yet but it’s not going to be before July 20. If the court agrees with the prosecution’s assertion that Breivik is insane, they cannot impose a prison sentence but will commit him to compulsory psychiatric care. If declared criminally sane he would likely face the maximum prison sentence in Norway: 21 years. However, he could be held longer under a provision designed to keep violent offenders locked up for as long as they are considered a menace to society. Breivik has said he would not appeal if given a prison term.
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