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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Pressure grows on terror defendant

Anders Behring Breivik ended up dropping his customary and offensive extremist salute when he entered the courtroom in Oslo on the fourth day of his 10-week trial on mass murder and terrorism charges. It was another sign that Breivik, who’s now being grilled by prosecutors, is under increasing pressure as he defends his attacks that killed 77 persons last summer.

Anders Behring Breivik's defense attorney Geir Lippestad confronted him before entering the courtroom, and is believed to have given Breivik firm advice to drop his extremist salute. He did. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

Breivik had been asked by his defense counsel on Wednesday to drop the clenched-fist, right-wing extremist salute he’s made on every public court appearance since his arrest on July 22. Complaints about it had been made all week, but Breivik initially rejected his lawyers’ advice Wednesday night.

When police guards escorted him to the courtroom entrance Thursday morning, defense counsel Geir Lippestad quickly confronted him for a short but serious talk. Their exchange continued after police removed Breivik’s handcuffs but then the judiciary panel entered the courtroom and Breivik was immediately ordered to take the stand. There was no clenched-fist salute.

The court itself had little if any power to order him to drop the salute, because he usually made it before legal proceedings formally began. Observers noted, however, that Lippestad’s admonishment clearly had an effect, and Breivik opted to make a concession.

Terror defendant Anders Behring Breivik clearly had some thinking to do while police removed his handcuffs in court on Thursday. PHOTO: NRK pool

He’s made a few others already this week, admitting he’s acted in a “pompous” fashion earlier and claiming that he’d toned down his right-wing extremist rhetoric. Now he’s facing much more pressure as prosecutors continue to question him intensely on his background and how he planned his bombing of Oslo’s government headquarters. Their examination has become increasingly confrontational and Breivik, who’s largely remained calm and controlled, is more defiant.

He refused to answer questions 145 times on Wednesday and complained that he was being ridiculed. Some legal and psychiatric observers in Norway have told local media that he’s showing signs that he’s not insane, not least because he recognizes how prosecutors are poking holes in the image he’s built up.

“I don’t think we’re seeing psychosis at all,” Norwegian psychiatrist Henning Værøy told VG Nett. “I think we’re seeing a young man who wanted to create an identity for himself.” After isolating himself for years in his bedroom in his mother’s home, and playing computer games, suggest other psychiatrists, Breivik wanted to be somebody, and settled on a role as extremist warrior. He has admitted to being influenced by extreme right-wing ideology online, and persons known for carrying out hate crimes.

Asked why he apparently held so much hate for Norway’s Labour Party, which he targeted in his attacks, Breivik answered on Wednesday that “I wouldn’t say I hate them. I’m willing to forgive if they change their view and distance themselves from their politics. That applies to others, too.” He said his attacks weren’t motivated by hate but rather “an obligation to act.”

“But why against the Labour Party?” asked an attorney for the party’s youth organization AUF, Frode Elgesem. Breivik replied: “It’s been the dominant party after the war and has, with few exceptions, been the party making decisions. Labour is the portion of power sharing that decides which way Norway goes. The key to Norway’s direction lies with the Labour Party.” He has earlier blamed the Norwegian government for allowing immigration to Norway.

‘Recommended’ to join Free Masons
Breivik was asked Thursday morning about his relatively brief participation with the Free Masons organization in Norway, which he dismissed as merely “a hobby.” Breivik testified that he wasn’t very active in the Masons and had only attended five meetings, mostly because he wanted access to the Free Masons’ library. He said another “nationalist” companion had recommended that he join the Free Masons because “they had the right Christian ideas.”

Prosecutors quickly moved on to examining details of Breivik’s financial situation as he planned his terrorist attacks. At one point, he said he had as much as NOK 700,000 in a bank account and NOK 300,000 in cash in a safe in his mother’s Oslo apartment. He described his liquidity as “excellent.”

Questioning was to continue throughout the day, on Friday and Monday, when prosecutors planned to turn from his bombing of government headquarters to his massacre at an AUF summer camp on the island of Utøya. The trial was said to be proceeding on schedule and that there would be no delays despite Lippestad’s earlier warnings he might call for more time to review new material in the case.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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