The trial of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik got underway in Oslo today, with the defendant admitting that he killed 77 people last July, but that he was acting in self-defense and doesn't recognize the authority of the court anyway. Breivik shot and killed 69 people at a youth summer camp last July, just hours after setting off a car bomb in Oslo that killed eight more. In a manifesto published online at the time of the attacks, Breivik blamed multiculturalism and pro-immigration sentiment in Norway, particularly as it related to Muslims, who he considered a threat to the country and Europe.
The trial opened with a reading of the indictment that included a list of the victims, many of them teenagers, and brutal descriptions of the wounds that they suffered in the attack. Breivik reportedly smiled as he entered the courtroom then greeted the assembly with a closed-fisted salute. He later told the judge that, "I do not recognize the Norwegian courts. You have received your mandate from political parties which support multiculturalism. I do not acknowledge the authority of the court." He claims to be a military commander who should be tried in a military court and that the Labour Party that organized the camp was a legitimate target, because of its support for Muslim immigration.
Breivik's lawyers will attempt to argue that he is insane and should be confined to psychiatric care instead of prison. Two different medical evaluations have reached separate conclusions about his fitness to stand trial, so the matter will have to hashed out in what is expected to be a 10-week trial.
Others in Norway are concerned that no matter what the verdict, Breivik will attempt to turn the trial into a circus, giving himself a worldwide opportunity to spread his hateful messages. His actions on Day 1 certainly lend credence to that idea. His lawyers have also hinted that they will call other witnesses with extreme political sympathies, who will testify that his "fears of Muslim colonization" were not unfounded given the rising tide of immigration and actual threats made by some Muslim immigrants.
Some Norewegian news outlets are even offering "Breivik-free" home pages for those who wish to avoid the overwhelming coverage of the event. About 800 journalists showed up for the opening arguments of what is being billed as the most significant trial in Norway since World War II. For more round-by-round coverage you can follow reporters Trygve Sorvaag, Robert Nisbet, Diana Magnay, and Mark Lewis, who are all tweeting live from the courtroom.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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