Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who massacred 77 people, many of them teenagers, last summer, made his first appearance in court today, and he had some crazy things to say.
Last July, Breivik, 33, set off a car bomb that killed eight people at Norway's government headquarters in Oslo, before dressing up as a police officer and killing sixty-nine more at a youth summer camp sponsored by the country's ruling Labor Party.
Breivik is testifying this week before a panel of five judges: two professionals and three citizens acting as "lay judges."
According to Norway's exceedingly helpful official court system website, the lay judge system works essentially like jury duty.
- Lay judges are members of the general public who are appointed to their office for a period of four years.
- Any Norwegian-speaking citizen of sound mind and body between the ages of 21 and 70 (with the exception of police officers, members of Parliament, priests, and lawyers) is eligible for appointment and must accept the office if it is offered.
- Once an individual becomes a lay judge, his or her name is added to a pool, composed of equal numbers of men and women, from which judges are selected for trials as needed.
- Lay judges typically are called upon to serve twice a year.
- Lay judges may be asked to sit either on a jury, or, as with the Breivik case, on the bench with the professional judges. In instances of the latter, lay judges rule on an equal basis with the professionals in terms of both guilt and sentencing.
Anyway, none of that matters to Breivik who, right off the bat, let the court know that, although he was led into the courtroom in handcuffs, and will have his future determined by those five judges, he does not recognize their authority.
"You have received your mandate from political parties which support multiculturalism. I do not acknowledge the authority of the court."
The chief task before the judges is to rule on Breivik's sanity and, having done so, to decide on appropriate treatment or punishment for him.
This might not be as easy as it sounds; while an initial psychiatric test concluded that Breivik was a paranoid schizophrenic, a second, conducted last week, found "no evidence" of psychosis.
While Norway prison sentences typically carry a maximum of 21 years behind bars, Breivik could face life in prison if he is found sane, thanks to a special provision that would allow for extensions of his term for as long as he was considered a danger to society. If he is found to be psychotic, he would likely be locked up in a psychiatric facility indefinitely. Norway does not practice the death penalty.
Members of Breivik's defense team have stated their primary goal at the trial is to prove their client's sanity. Thus far, their client seems to be doing anything but. (For the record, he does claim he is sane but, then, he would, wouldn't he?)
For one thing, he has already "demanded" (his words) in court to be found innocent of the criminal charges, arguing he acted "in self-defense on behalf of my people, my city, my country."
While this phrasing has led to some confusion among news outlets, The Guardian reports that he is referring to 47 of the Norwegian penal code, which states: "No person may be punished for any act that he has committed in order to save someone's person or property from an otherwise unavoidable danger when the circumstances justified him in regarding this danger as particularly significant in relation to the damage that might be caused by his act."
He claims he acted out of "goodness, not evil" to prevent a wider civil war, adding, "I would have done it again."
He says his victims killed or injured at the summer camp in on the island of Utøya were "not innocent, non-political children," because they "worked to actively uphold multicultural values." He adds that the government-run camp was akin to those sponsored by the Hitler Youth.
He professes to be a member of a fringe anti-Islam group he calls the Knights Templar, which the prosecution has stated does not exist. (Breivik maintains that it does, albeit in a much smaller capacity than he originally implied.)
He also says he not intimidated by the prospect of lifetime imprisonment, as he "was born in a prison where I could not express my beliefs. This prison is called Norway."
However, Breivik is much less blasé about the prospect of life in a psych ward.
Following the release of the results of last autumn's psychiatric evaluation that concluded he was criminally insane, Breivik did what any non-insane person would do: penned a 38-page letter to a Norwegian tabloid protesting the finding. Here's a line from it:
"To send a political activist to an asylum is more sadistic and more evil than killing him!"
The trial is expected to last for ten weeks.
[Image via AP]