Breivik’s family avoids testifying

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Lawyers for terror defendant Anders Behring Breivik have opted against calling his family members and several other key persons from his past to testify, at Breivik’s own request. The prosecution isn’t calling them in either, even though they could shed important light on the main question that needs to be addressed in his trial: Whether he’s sane or insane.

Terror defendant Anders Behring Breivik was asked to leave the courtroom when his friends were testifying. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News archive

Only four of Breivik’s former friends were testifying as his trial resumed on Tuesday, three of whom Breivik mentioned in the so-called “manifesto” he wrote and released just before he launched the attacks on July 22 last year that killed 77 persons in Oslo and on the island of Utøya.

“We have summoned these friends because they can help describe how Breivik was as a person before July 22nd,” prosecutor Svein Holden told news bureau NTB. All four have known the now-32-year-old Breivik since their school days, one since they were both only 11.

The court won’t be hearing, though, from several others who have known Breivik even longer, including his mother, step-mother, sister and other former friends and acquaintances. Family members are excused if they don’t want to testify against a relative, and Breivik’s mother also was excused for health reasons. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Tuesday that her written statements about her son wouldn’t be read aloud in court either, at least not yet.

His sister reportedly has already told police that she doesn’t think he’s insane. Newspaper Aftenposten cited transcripts from police questioning of her in which she claimed that “he understood what he was planning, and knew the difference between right and wrong … you can’t be sick and plan what he did.”

Since Breivik himself wants to be declared sane and sentenced to prison instead of psychiatric care, his defense attorneys wanted to call his sister as a witness along with some others from his past. “It’s clear from our side that it would be best to have the largest number of people testify who can shed light on his state of mind before July 22,” defense attorney Vibeke Hein Bæra told Aftenposten. “But he is so clear that he doesn’t want to pull people he cares about into the case, because he understands it would be hard for them.”

Others on the defense wish list included a former childhood friend of Pakistani backgrund whom Breivik claims was active in criminal gangs and opened his eyes to the dangers of Islam. The former friend denied Breivik’s claims under police questioning last August and won’t be called to testify, nor will another 33-year-old former friend and a 50-year-old man who Breivik has called his “financial mentor.”

Those testifying requested anonymity
Among the four former friends who were testifying on Tuesday, none of whom wanted to be identified by Norwegian media, is another 33-year-old who said that Breivik was very concerned about immigration policies, called all Norwegian politicians “multi-culturalists” and became furious when the former friend disagreed. “He put everyone in a box, everyone was a ‘multi-culturalist’ and I tried to confront him,” the former friend said, according to NRK transcripts of the testimony. “He had no understanding for others who had a different opinion. His version of events was the only right one. He couldn’t tackle hearing that the world wasn’t necessarily the way he saw it.”

He said that he thought Breivik sunk into a deep depression when he moved back home to his mother’s Oslo apartment as an adult in 2006 and then isolated himself, spending most of his time playing computer games. There was some speculation “that he’d become gay and chosen against coming out with that,” also because Breivik started using make-up, the former friend testified, but Breivik has told police he wasn’t homosexual, rather “metrosexual.” His friends worried about him, at one point even going together to visit him at his mother’s home, but attempts to talk with him were rejected. Breivik’s mother said she had “a firm message from Anders that he didn’t want to talk.”

There were a few occasions when he did agree to meet his old friends, but they were seldom. At one meeting, in a restaurant in Oslo’s Kvadraturen district, “I asked him if he wanted a beer,” said the 33-year-old friend, now a lawyer. “He answered loudly that he was taking anabolic steroids. It was a very abnormal thing to say, also because there were some people there he didn’t know.”

Another former friend from their junior high school days described Breivik as “enterprising, fussy and meticulous, focused and perhaps a bit self-centered,” while another called him “active and smart … and towards me, he was always very nice.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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