Anders Behring Breivik’s name has been plastered across the international media lately – and he’s loving it. Breivik, 33, is currently undergoing trial in Oslo, Norway, for 77 murders that occurred last July.
But unlike most American criminals, Breivik does not deny that he was responsible for the deaths. Rather, Breivik is pleading not guilty because of self-defense; that the murders he committed were in the name of national security and necessary to prevent gross harm to himself and his country.
His own lawyers have conceded that this approach is unlikely to succeed, and so are focused on refuting the prosecution, who are attempting to prove that Breivik is insane. If found guilty and insane, Breivik may be incarcerated in a mental institution indefinitely. If found guilty and sane, Breivik will serve a prison sentence of 21 years.
Either way, Breivik is not a likeable person. His actions were directly tied to his own anti-Muslim beliefs; he claims to head an organization called the “Knights Templar”, and authored a 1,500-page manifesto that decried Muslims and Norwegian immigrants.
Breivik’s trial has gained worldwide notoriety because of his own antics – for most of the trial’s first week, he saluted the packed courtroom by raising his right arm in a clenched fist. He also smiled at several points while describing his having planned out the massacre, and requested that he be allowed to wear a uniform at the trial, rather than a typical business suit (that request was denied).
As if his courtroom demeanor wasn’t enough, Norwegian criminal law differs from American criminal law in that it supports testimony from the defendant. Because of this, Breivik has been questioned intensively – and has revealed that he was on steroids during the massacre, as well as that he played Call of Duty for over a year to practice utilizing gunsights. Breivik, who returned to live with his mother when he was 27, expressed that he played video games over 16 hours per day in preparation for the shootings.
On the day of the shooting (July 22, 2011), Breivik detonated a car bomb at a government building in downtown Oslo. Eight people died, and Breivik moved on to a nearby island, Utoeya, where a government-sponsored youth group was having a summer camp. Breivik, now dressed as a police officer, walked the island and shot 69 more people, most of whom were teenagers.
During the trial, Breivik coldly described the entire event. When questioned about his own apathy, he replied that in preparation, he had begun practicing a form of Japanese meditation, so as to remove his emotions as completely as possible. Breivik also mentioned that he had named his two weapons (a pistol and a rifle) “Mjölnir” and “Gungnir”, after famous weaponry from Norse mythology.
Though his plea of “not guilty” will likely carry little merit, Breivik does not appear worried. He confided that a prison sentence would mean little to him, as he feels that being forced to live in a nation that is hospitable to immigrants and Muslims is already imprisonment.
Rather, Breivik revealed that he would only be dissatisfied if the court rules that he is insane. To Breivik, anything else means that his motives were justified – and merely that the government has won. But to be ruled insane is a slap in his face – the government’s way of saying that he is the one with the problem.
And what a severe problem it is.