Breivik verdict may be delayed

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As the trial of confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik continued this week, with witnesses testifying for the defense, the court itself announced that a verdict in the case may not be made public until August 24. That’s more than a month later than the date initially declared by the court.

Terror defendant Anders Behring Breivik (right) conferring with his defense attorney Geir Lippestad earlier in the trial. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

The Oslo City Court (Oslo tingrett) has reported earlier that a verdict, which will legally determine whether Breivik is sane or insane and what kind of sentence he’ll receive, was expected no later than July 20. That led many, including state prosecutors, to believe a verdict would be released sometime in early to mid-July, before the one-year anniversary of Breivik’s attacks on July 22, 2011 that killed 77 persons and severely damaged Norway’s government headquarters in Oslo.

The court’s own online information service, however, now reports that it’s not yet clear on which date the verdict will be read, either July 20 “at the earliest” or on August 24. A court official told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the actual date will be clarified by July 11.

Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, lead judge in the Breivik trial, may need more time to prepare the verdict and sentencing in the case. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

An administrative court judge, Ina Strømstad, told NRK the verdict in the case will be “extremely comprehensive” and “difficult” to write. “We can’t release it until everything is in place,” Stromstad told NRK. “We’re planning for July 20, but must have an alternative date as well.” The five-week gap between the two dates was attributed to a need for summer holidays for those involved. Permission was granted for the reading of the verdict to be broaddcast live, when it is released.

Breivik’s case has otherwise proceeded according to schedule, of which both court officials and prosecutors have been proud. “We’ve attracted international attention, that it’s been possible to get the case up for a verdict 11 months after the acts took place,” the director general of public prosecutions, Tor-Aksel Busch, told NRK as late as Monday night.

The trial itself is still expected to wrap up on June 22, after both the prosecution and defense state their demands and the judges retreat to make their ruling.

Witnesses for the defense
Testimony this week was coming from witnesses for the defense, several of whom are experts on extremist right-wing ideology and terrorism, religious historians and persons with far right-wing and anti-immigration views themselves. Breivik’s defense counsel wants to show that their client isn’t alone in his own anti-immigration, ultra right-wing ideology that he claims motivated his bombing and massacre on July 22.

Among those testifying Monday was Mattias Gardell, a professor and scholar in comparative religions at Uppsala University in Sweden. He claimed that Breivik “is no mystery” but rather “a product of a political milieu with a long tradition that he wanted to inspire.” He believes the sources of Breivik’s own inspiration included “white power” ideology, right-wing Christian theology, cultural conservatism and phobias about Islam. Gardell claimed that what some court-appointed psychiatrists have found to be mentally ill delusions, are actually ordinary versions of reality found in the circles where Breivik sought inspiration.

That, testified others, included the ultra-right-wing websites and debate pages where Breivik participated for years. That’s where the views he held are common, Gardell noted. Breivik himself has indicated that while others simply write about or talk about a need to stop immigration to preserve white ethnic societies, he acted, attacking those he believes nurture the multi-culturalism Breivik opposes and to dramatically draw attention to the issue by killing scores of people.

Breivik’s own explanation
Breivik himself was allowed to address the court as well, to explain in his own words how he became the radical right-wing terrorist he claims he is. Breivik said it all began when he was seven years ago, and an immigrant father in his neighbourhood destroyed his bicycle after getting angry at Breivik. The now-33-year-old defendant claimed “we had a lot of problems” with immigrants in his mostly white neighbourhood in west Oslo. He also cited a long list of alleged episodes of violence to which he’d been subjected by others of immigrant background.

Several other witnesses initially called by the defense have now been excused from testifying, including jailed Islamic cleric Mullah Krekar, religious historian Hanne Nabintu Herland, right-wing radical blogger Peder Nøstvold Jensen (better known as “Fjordman”), Islamic critic and author Bruce Bawer and Islamic activist Mohyeldeen Mahammad.

“They claim they had nothing to contribute to the case and had absolutely no desire to testify,” defense attorney Tord Jordet told newspaper Dagsavisen. Some witnesses who were still scheduled to testify, including the leader of the right-wing Norwegian Defence League, complained the court would censor their remarks by preventing them from being broadcast, while other witnesses’ remarks would be aired live.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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