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Commission questions sanity report

New questions arose on Monday over a second court-appointed psychiatrists’ report that found terror defendant Anders Behring Brevik to be sane and not suffering from psychosis. A state commission that reviews such reports has asked for additional information.

Anders Behring Breivik, shown here in court on Monday, doesn't think his mental health would have been evaluated and the subject of so much discussion if he'd been a "bearded jihadist" instead of the white, young Norwegian that he is. PHOTO: NRK pool

The commission doesn’t think that the two psychiatrists who examined Breivik before his trial started last week have allowed for the possibility that Breivik could have modified his statements and his behaviour, to lead them to believe he is sane.

The commission thus wants the two psychiatrists, Agnar Aspaas and Terje Tørrissen, to deliver a supplemental report that meets criteria for evaluating personality disturbances. They reportedly want more information about Breivik’s childhood, for example, and seemed to indicate that Breivik could have tricked them into believing he was not psychotic when he killed 77 persons in two separate attacks last summer.

Breivik has so far been calm, mostly cooperative and even respectful at his trial that got underway last Monday. He’s been under intense cross examination since Wednesday but has shown little if any feelings, testifying without emotion and explaining to the court that he had “trained for years” to be able to carry out his attacks without feeling normal human emotion.

He has said he’s fully aware of the “enormous suffering” he has caused and had “chosen” not to think about it so he could carry out the attack he claims was aimed at those who’ve allowed immigration and a multi-cultural society in Norway. Breivik has repeatedly called his attacks “gruesome but necessary.”

Reverse racism
Breivik also raised an issue in the courtroom on Monday that his defense attorney chose not to pursue, at least for now. Breivik has long claimed he’s sane and that his attacks were motivated by political ideology. He believes the fact that his sanity is even being questioned makes him a victim of reverse racism.

“If I’d been a bearded jihadist, I would never have been subject to psychiatric examination at all,” Breivik testified on Monday, noting how few if any Islamic terrorists are put through psychiatric examination or considered for psychiatric treatment instead of prison. “But because I’m a militant nationalist, I’m subjected to severe racism, by those trying to delegitimatize everything I stand for. That’s clear racism.”

The question has been raised before, over how Norway’s legal system would have dealt with the terror defendant if he or she had been a radical Muslim, for example, instead of a young white man from an affluent section of Oslo. Some commentators, including activist Aslak Myhre who now runs Litteraturhuset in Oslo, have suggested it’s easier for Norwegian authorities to accept that “one of our own” could carry out such attacks if the defendant is ruled insane. Breivik clams he’s been motivated by ideology just like Islamic terrorists, who are rarely if ever viewed as being insane or subject to psychiatric examination.

Under constant observation
Several other psychiatrists have been following Breivik closely during the opening week of his trial and have said they see little if any sign of insanity. Kjersti Narud, for example, told NRK again on Monday that Breivik has appeared clear and rational so far and “able to adapt to the circumstances he finds himself in, able to understand and respond to the messages he’s getting. He says the worst imaginable things, but he says them calmly.”

Breivik has appeared well-prepared for his courtroom appearances, is well-spoken, even deferential and polite. Since his guilt has been established, the main question to be decided by the trial is the state of his mental health. A team of four court-appointed psychiatrists are watching his every move in court, as observations of his behaviour will play a big role in his final sanity determination in June.

Meanwhile the two psychiatrists asked to supplement their report downplayed the commission’s request as “not dramatic at all.” Norway’s chief prosecutor Tor Aksel Busch was also in court on Monday to observe Breivik, since his team hasn’t yet decided whether they’ll seek a prison term for Breivik or commitment to a psychiatric institution.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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