Anders Behring Breivik has confessed to the murder of 77 people last July, but has entered a plea of 'not guilty.' The trial, which begins in Oslo on Monday, threatens to turn into a forum for radical views.
Seventy-seven dead, more than 800 claimants in court, at least 150 witnesses - the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the man behind the twin attacks last July in Oslo and Utoya, is the biggest court case in Norway's recent history.
Proceedings are expected to focus on reconstructing the sequence of events, the assassin's motives and the question of whether or not Breivik was sane at the time of the killing spree.
The facts are clear. Anders Behring Breivik confessed to setting off a bomb in Oslo on July 22, 2011 and indiscriminately shooting teenagers in a youth camp on Utoya island. But he has pleaded not guilty. Breivik claims to be a modern-day crusader waging a war against Islam in Norway. Breivik blames the ruling Social Democrats for what he calls a "Muslim invasion" in Norway; thus the bomb attack in the government district and the massacre among members of a youth campo organized by the Social Democrat's youth organisation, AUF.
Conflicting psychiatric assessments
Two psychiatric reports tried to assess whether Breivik, 33, was insane at the time of the attacks. In November, a team of experts declared him psychotic and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia - criminally insane. Last week, a second psychiatric report contradicted that assessment and described Breivik as narcissistic, but not psychotic.
It's now up to the court to reach a decision. Should the court rule that Breivik is mentally ill, he would be placed in compulsory psychiatric care. His confinement to a locked ward would be up for re-examination every three years - and could last a lifetime. Should he be declared sane, Breivik faces up to 21 years in prison.
A forum for radical views
The defendant, highly pleased with the second report, aims to use the trial as a platform for his radical views. He says he will only be taken seriously if he is judged to be sane. Breivik doesn't regret the killings, rather, he plans to tell the court he regrets not having wreaked more havoc, according to defense lawyer Geir Lippestad.
The defense has said it would call as witnesses radical Islamists and rightwing extremists to show the defendant is not criminally insane, but holds views shared by others. Among them, are Mullah Krekar, recently jailed in Norway for making death threats, and "Fjordman," a conservative Norwegian blogger among those Breivik quoted in writing the manifesto that detailed the motivation for his attacks.
Lone wolf attacker
There's no doubt that Breivik acted as a lone wolf, albeit in contact with like-minded people on the Internet. Norway's domestic intelligence agency PST in March released its own assessment of the situation, saying he acted alone and with careful planning. Such an attacker could only have been stopped had there been concrete clues as to what he was up to. Resources, however, were limited which is why a constant monitoring of right-wing websites was not possible. The agency said it regrets having failed in the Breivik case - but did not admit to any mistakes.
The Oslo court is expected to hand down a verdict in July, but most of the trial is likely to focus on the question of whether or not Breivik was in fact insane when committing the crime. The trial is expected also to focus more attention on right-wing and anti-Islam elements in Norwegian society.
Author: Agnes Buhrig / db
Editor: Gregg Benzow