In a routine custody hearing at a Norwegian court this Monday, it seems Anders Behring Breivik’s mad plot to center attention on his right-wing extremist Christian views was successful. Breivik’s killed 8 people with a bomb, and 69 more by gun on Utoya Islan on July 22, to draw attention to his message that Norway must protect itself from Muslim immigration. As he entered the courtroom, the smirking Breivik, dressed in a black suit and silver tie, raised his right fist in a sign of right-wing solidarity. At the stand, he brazenly demanded his freedom, looking calmly and speaking evenly at the crowd of survivors and family members of his victims. He told the judge that instead of being tried as a criminal, he merited a medal of honor.
“The way he talked, the way he smiled … everything made me realize that no one has the same picture of the world that he does,” said Heleven Gergson, a 17-year-old survivor of Breivik’s attack.
The attack in July, which is Norway’s greatest peace-time massacre, was Breivik’s scheme to draw worldwide attention to his 1,500 page manifesto, which he had recently made available on the internet, and which focused critical attention on Muslim immigration and European liberalism.
Breivik has stylized himself as a commander of a militant organization aiming to replace European governments with patriotic and anti-Islamic regimes. The document describes initiation rights, oaths, and explained that his “clenched fist salute,” expressed “strength, honor, and defiance against the Marxist tyrants of Europe.”
Though 1,500 people have been questioned regarding the attacks, there has been no trace of the group Breivik claims to lead.
Breivik has plead not guilty, though he admits to the shootings, calling them an act of self-defense to save Norway. His lawyer, Geir Lippestad, sees his remarks and gestures as “a preparation for the trial. Much of this case is about his personality.”
Despite Breivik’s protests, his lawyers are seeking to prove that he was psychotic. If he was insane at the time of the attack, he will not face time in prison, but will be detained in a psychiatric ward.
Recognizing that Breivik’s mental health was the integral question of the trial, the court had ordered two psychiatric evaluations, which declared him to be psychotic. Due to public outcry that he would receive less punishment if declared insane, the judge ordered another evaluation, but Breivik refused to cooperate. When the report was read in court of his psychosis, he called it “ridiculous.”
“What a clown” said a father of one of the teenagers killed at the summer camp attack. “The only thing he lacked was a red nose. To sit and look at us like he did, you can see that he is sick.”
His infamous attack and his later court comments are drawing attention to what Breivik has made his mission: to express Norwegian tensions over Muslim immigration.
“It wasn’t good that he got to say what he wanted to say, “said Amel Baltic, a 16-year-old survivor of the attack. “It got me irritated.”
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg recognized that the attacks had fundamentally changed Norway, but vowed that it would remain an “open society.”
The court has found legal ways to keep Breivik detained till his trial. If convicted, he could face up to 21 years in prison. His trial is set for April 16 and is expected to run 10 weeks.