Several lawyers expressed surprise that an Oslo City Court judge allowed mass murder and terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik to speak for as long as he did, when he started five days of testimony on Tuesday. Others called his testimony “classic rhetoric” although Breivik himself claimed he’d toned it down “out of consideration for the survivors and victims” of his deadly attacks last summer.
Breivik, like all other criminal defendants in Norway, is entitled to defend himself and explain his criminal actions. In Breivik’s case, that includes murdering 77 persons in the space of just over three hours on July 22 last year. The lead judge handling his trial let him speak for nearly 70 minutes, but she did interrupt him on several occasions, not least after a lawyer for many survivors objected to the nature of Breivik’s remarks. His testimony was also delayed, because of the need Tuesday morning to replace one of the lay judges in his case.
The sheer scope of Breivik’s attacks last July has led to the largest trial in Norwegian history and attracted broad media coverage, with steady transcriptions coming from the courtroom when televised coverage is prohibited. The national and international attention is a result not just of the violence involved, but because Breivik has claimed all along that he carried out his attacks in an effort to stop the Norwegian government from allowing what he claims is a looming immigrant and Muslim takeover of the country. He therefore resorted to terrorism, blaming the government and, specifically, the Labour Party for promoting and allowing immigration over the years. He targeted the government, by bombing its headquarters in downtown Oslo, and a Labour Party youth summer camp, in an effort to wipe out the next generation of Labour leaders.
Speaking often in the collective “we,” a reference to alleged supporters and other right-wing extremists, Breivik compared his battle against what he calls “multiculturalism” to the conflict between Tibet and China. “There’s no difference between the fight by the people of Tibet and us, who are fighting for self-rule and cultural protection,” Breivik said in a transcript published by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Breivik presented himself as a militant nationalist for what he calls a Norwegian and European “resistance movement.” Under questioning from prosecutors Tuesday afternoon, he said he’d been influenced by other “like-minded, militant nationalists” who believe use of violence is legitimate. He was reluctant, however, to identify them.
Several right-wing extremist organizations have tried to distance themselves from Breivik, although he suggests many of their members think the same way he does and their anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric is similar to his own. S0me extremists have seemed eager to brand Breivik as insane, since his mass murder isn’t likely to enhance recruitment and doesn’t reflect well on what he considers their collective cause.
Breivik’s testimony suggests that he simply decided to act on the rhetoric of right-wing extremist ideology. After claiming that multicultural journalists and academics are working together to destroy the Norwegian identity, he added that “multiculturalists are so arrogant that they won’t go into dialogue with us.” He thus felt his freedom of expression was under attack, so he attacked himself. Breivik called the events of July 22 and the recent murders of immigrants in Malmö, Sweden “preventive strikes” necessary to fend off multiculturalism. He said he hadn’t expected to survive July 22 himself, and that he realizes he has caused enormous suffering.
“I acted out of necessity on behalf of my people, my culture, my country,” he said, before demanding to be released from custody. He also claimed, though, that “prison doesn’t scare me.” He wants to be deemed sane, not insane, knowing that will result in a lengthy prison term.
Breivik continued on Tuesday to appear calm and controlled, even polite, as he did when his trial began Monday. He also admitted that he’d previously appeared “pompous,” and has himself to blame for an initial determination from court-appointed psychiatrists that he is insane. His conduct throughout the trial will play a key role in the final determination of his mental state when it wraps up in June.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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