Grown men were reduced to tears once again, as were many others, when terror defendant Anders Behring Breivik re-traced his murderous steps in an Oslo courtroom on Friday. Repeated attempts by attorneys to get Breivik to show any signs of emotion or empathy himself, though, were unsuccessful.
“It was very, very tough to listen to him, completely lacking any feelings as he talked about how he systematically killed so many of my friends,” one young survivor of Breivik’s massacre at a Labour Party youth camp told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) as he wiped away tears outside a courthouse in Drammen Friday afternoon. Breivik’s trial is being shown via a special video link in 17 courtrooms all over the country, and many of his targets on July 22 have been forcing themselves to sit through it.
Breivik returned to the witness box at the Oslo City Court (Oslo Tingrett) at 9am, with his defense attorneys asking questions along with the attorneys for survivors and relatives of his victims and, finally, the prosecution. After testimony on Thursday that included gruesome details of how he planned and carried out what he calls his “legitimate executions” of young political activists, Friday’s session started out less horrifying than expected but got worse in the afternoon. That’s when he described in detail how he tricked his way onto the island, disguised as a police officer. Then he proceeded to calmly relate how he started shooting within minutes of his arrival.
Before that, he said he “dehumanized those I viewed as legitimate targets,” according to NRK’s transcripts from the court. He said he had trained for years on how to hide his emotions, even adopting “technical language” to prevent him from showing any human empathy that would “break down” the “mental shield” he said he’d built up for himself. Asked how he viewed people assembled in the courtroom, though, he calmly said he saw “people whose lives I’ve destroyed and for whom I’ve caused enormous pain and suffering.” He repeatedly called his actions “gruesome” himself, but still has no regrets.
Before he began his afternoon testimony, Breivik himself warned persons in the courtroom to leave unless they really needed to hear what he had to say, because it would be so brutal.
First victim was a security guard
Upon arriving on the island of Utøya, after first bombing Norway’s government headquarters, he immediately encountered an unarmed, off-duty policeman who was serving as a security guard at the summer camp for young Labour Party members. The guard was the first person Breivik shot, because “he got suspicious and started asking me questions.” He also quickly killed a woman who had run the camp for years, before moving on to the camp’s café building where he slaughtered more than a dozen young persons inside.
He then roamed the island, calmly explaining how he lured some terrified campers from their hiding places by telling them a boat was coming to evacuate them. “When they moved towards me, I shot them,” he said. He found a group trying to hide behind a small pumphouse on the island. “I shot very many there,” he said. He shot many several times, in the head, “to be sure they were dead.”
At one point, he said he had to get around a pile of bodies to continue on his mission. “I saw the effect of what I’d done,” he testified. “I thought it was a little gruesome.”
Opted to ‘continue the fight from prison’
When police finally arrived on the island, “I asked myself, ‘do I really want to survive this? I’ll be the most hated person in Norway and my life will be a nightmare,'” Breivik testified. “But then I thought of the manifest I’d written, and that I should surrender and continue the fight from prison.” He considered shooting at the police that arrived to apprehend him but didn’t want to, telling the court “they were not the enemy.”
He claims he spared several campers who he thought were under the age of 16. “I saw one very confused boy, I told him ‘it will be okay, just relax.’ I didn’t shoot him.” By the time it was all over, 69 persons were dead, scores more seriously wounded.
Breivik will spend one more day on the witness stand on Monday, before lawyers begin calling other witnesses. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg sent out a message of condolence via social media before the weekend, aimed at the survivors of the Utøya massacre and families of the victims, saying that he was thinking of them and knew they must be going through a very hard time. Stoltenberg himself lost many friends on July 22, and several of the victims were the children of friends.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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