Breivik found sane, faces life imprisonment

THE Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has been found responsible for his crimes and faces life in prison.

THE Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has been found responsible for his crimes and faces life in prison.

A panel of five judges led by Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, who read the judgment, declared their verdict to be unanimous.

Breivik smiled briefly when he heard the verdict of guilt over terrorism offences and premeditated murder. Earlier he had made a straight-armed fascist salute in court.

The judges effectively found that Breivik was sane when he slaughtered 77 people last year and sentenced him to ”preventive detention”. This is different to a normal prison sentence, which carries a maximum of 21 years.

Breivik will be assessed after 21 years and his sentence could be extended if he is considered to still be a threat to society.

Consignment to a psychiatric ward would have no time limit.

Breivik, who had fought against a finding of insanity because he did not want to be dismissed as a madman, had said psychiatric care would be ”worse than death”.

Breivik was charged with terrorism offences after twin attacks on July 22 last year. He set off a 950-kilogram car bomb in central Oslo that killed eight people, then took a boat to Utoeya Island where he strode around dressed in police uniform and shot 69 people, most of them teenagers, who were attending a summer camp for the youth wing of Norway’s Labour Party. He injured 242 people.

Breivik, 33, claimed he was fighting the ”Islamicisation” of Norway and Europe and called on others to join his crusade against left-wing multiculturalists and the immigration of Muslims.

The question for the court had not been whether Breivik committed the atrocities – he admitted his actions – but whether he was mad or bad, which would determine whether he should be hospitalised or jailed.

Psychiatrists had been divided over his mental state. The first court-appointed panel found him to be a paranoid schizophrenic but a second, while diagnosing several disorders, declared he would not have been psychotic when he committed the attacks.

The prosecution had called for him to be sent to a psychiatric hospital. Breivik himself said he was sane and demanded jail, to enhance what he saw as his status as a national hero, a right-wing cultural warrior defending his people against invasion.

The victims’ families had wanted him to be found sane so he could be held responsible for what they saw as a political crime. Seventy per cent of Norwegians polled shared this view.

After the verdict a survivor, Eivind Rindal, told a Norwegian newspaper: ”The most important thing is that he never gets out. There are many who share his extreme views in our society.”

A bereaved relative said: ”Now he will be locked up for life and we can forget about him.”

The court’s decision means there will be no appeal. One of his lawyers, Geir Lippestad, had promised that his client would not contest a jail sentence.

The gunman is expected to live a regimented life at the high-security Ila prison near Oslo.

Breivik has spent his time in detention writing his memoirs, according to another of his lawyers, Tord Jordet. He plans to finish the book in the first half of next year and has received unconfirmed offers from publishers in southern Europe, Mr Jordet said.

The killings shone a spotlight on far-right extremism and tensions over multiculturalism in a country that had previously been noted for its peacefulness.

There is a growing consensus in Norway that the feeling of national unity, symbolised by the huge ”rose marches” in which hundreds of thousands marched in defiance during the aftermath of the attacks, has slowly ebbed away as the country becomes divided over the issues of rising immigration and cultural integration.

Thorbjoern Jagland, a former prime minister and the chairman of the Nobel peace prize committee, believes Norway learnt nothing from the tragedy: ”People at the political level have been more cautious regarding the debate around integration and Muslims, but if you look at what is going on at the grassroots level it has not changed.”

Kari Helene Partapuoli, of Oslo’s anti-racist centre, said the government had not started programs to improve cultural awareness.

First published in The Age.