OSLO, (Reuters) – The Norwegian anti-Islamic gunman who killed 77 people said at his trial today his shooting spree and bomb attack were “sophisticated and spectacular” and that he would do the same thing again.
Anders Behring Breivik, 33, has pleaded not guilty and said he was defending his country by setting off a car bomb that killed eight people at government headquarters in Oslo last July, then killing another 69 people in a shooting spree at a youth summer camp organised by the ruling Labour Party.
“I have carried out the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack committed in Europe since the Second World War,” Breivik told the court in a prepared statement.
“They (Norwegians) risk being a minority in their own capital in their own country in the future.”
“Yes, I would have done it again, because offences against my people … are many times as bad,” he said, taking to the stand for the first time.
While he has admitted the killings and will likely be kept behind bars for the rest of his life, Breivik’s main objective is to prove he is sane, a court judgement that he sees as vindicating his anti-Muslim and anti-immigration cause.
The high school dropout has said being labelled insane would be a “fate worse than death”.
If found guilty and sane, Breivik faces a maximum 21-year sentence but could be held indefinitely if he is considered a continuing danger. If declared insane, he would be held in a psychiatric institution indefinitely with periodic reviews.
Norway does not have the death penalty.
Breivik’s testimony will not be broadcast on television due to concerns that the gunman could use the trial as propaganda for his violent cause.
The day began in controversy after the court dismissed a lay judge after he posted a comment on a Facebook page days after the massacre saying the gunman should face the death penalty.
Two professional judges, as well as three lay judges chosen from civil society, preside over the court. The judge, who will be replaced, posted “The death penalty is the only just outcome of this case” on a Facebook page.
Breivik appeared for the first time in court on Monday, giving a clenched-fist salute, smirking at the court and pleading not guilty in a trial that threatens to showcase his anti-Islamic views.
Breivik listened impassively on Monday for hours as prosecutors read out an indictment detailing how he massacred teenagers trapped on a island resort outside Oslo. He only shed tears when the court later showed one of his propaganda videos.
Breivik shot most of his victims several times, often using the first shot to take down his target then following up with a shot to the head. His youngest victim was 14. He later surrendered as “commander of the Norwegian resistance movement”.
The trial is scheduled to last 10 weeks.
More than 200 people sat in the specially built courtroom while about 700 attack survivors and family members of victims watched on closed-circuit video around the country.
Some Norwegians fear Breivik will succeed in turning the trial, with about 800 journalists on hand, into a platform for his anti-immigrant ideas. One Norwegian newspaper offered online readers a way to remove all Breivik-related stories.
His defence team has called 29 witnesses to argue Breivik was sane, with a world view shared by a narrow group of people.
His proposed witnesses include Mullah Krekar, the Kurdish founder of Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, who was recently jailed in Norway for making death threats, and “Fjordman”, a right-wing blogger who influenced Breivik. Breivik is scheduled to testify for about a week, starting on Tuesday.
Last July 22, he set off the bomb in the centre of Oslo before heading to the youth camp on Utoeya, an island in a lake 40 km (25 miles) outside the capital, gunning down his victims while police took more than an hour to get to the massacre site in the chaos that followed the bomb blast.
Disguised as a police officer, Breivik managed to lure some of his victims out of hiding, saying help had arrived. Other victims jumped into the lake, where he shot them in the water.
“Your arrest will mark the initiation of the propaganda phase,” Breivik wrote in a manual for future attackers, part of a 1,500-page manifesto he posted online. “Your trial offers you a stage to the world.”
An initial psychiatric evaluation concluded that Breivik was criminally insane while a second, completed in the past week, found no evidence of psychosis. Resolving this conflict could be the five-judge panel’s major decision.