Anders Breivik, who confessed to July attacks which left 77 people dead, is charged with committing acts of terrorism.
The man accused over a bombing and shooting spree that left 77 people dead in Norway has acknowledged carrying out the killings but pleaded “not guilty” on terror charges, as his trial got under way in Oslo.
“I acknowledge the acts, but not criminal guilt,” Anders Behring Breivik told the court on Monday morning, referring to the July 2011 attacks over which prosecutors accuse him of committing acts of terror.
Breivik arrived in court for the morning’s opening session in Oslo amid tight security and massive media attention, with proceedings set to focus on whether or not he is legally sane.
Jo Stigen, a law professor at the University of Oslo, told Al Jazeera the trial was a “fascinating case” but added that it was a peculiar situation where the accused claims responsibility for the killings and “now pleads he commited them in self-defence”.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull reports live on the trial in Oslo
“To me it sounds a pretty absurd argument,” said Stigen. “If he is declared insane his mission totally will fall apart. So it is extremely important to be considered insane and to be held criminally responsible.”
If convicted, the 33-year-old faces a 21-year sentence that could be extended indefinitely if he is still considered a threat to society. If deemed to be insane he would face closed psychiatric care, possibly for life.
Upon his entrance to the court, Breivik lifted his right fist in an apparent far-right salute.
“I do not recognise the Norwegian courts. You have received your mandate from political parties which support multiculturalism”, Breivik told the court, adding that he wished to be tried in a military court. “I do not acknowledge the authority of the court.”
Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, the lead judge responded, telling Breivik that he would have time to make statements later on in the trial.
Breivik diplayed little emotion as the prosecutor read out a list of those killed and how they had died as well as his charges, but later appeared tearful as the court was shown a 12-minute film that he had posted online on the day of the attacks.
Summer camp shooting spree
Breivik has confessed to a car bombing outside a government building in central Oslo which killed eight people and the subsequent killings of 69 people, most of them teenagers, during a shooting spree on the nearby island Utoya where Norway’s ruling Labour Party was holding a youth summer camp.
Entering his plea on Monday, he said he had acted in self-defence. His lawyers had earlier said he would argue that his actions were “cruel but necessary”.
Breivik has said he acted alone against those he considered to be “state traitors” for opening Norway up to multiculturalism and allowing a “Muslim invasion” of Europe.
The trial is expected to focus on whether or not Breivik is criminally sane and therefore accountable for his actions. A first court-ordered psychiatric exam found him insane, while a second opinion came to the opposite conclusion.
Five judges will consider psychiatric evaluations presented to the court, with a verdict expected to be handed down in July.
But many Norwegians feel Breivik will use the trial as a showcase for far-right views expounded in a more-than 1,500-page document published online prior to the attack. In that self-styled manifesto, Breivik described a trial as offering “a stage to the world”.
The trial is unprecedented in Norway’s history, with proceedings from the specially-adapted Oslo District Court broadcast live to 17 local courthouses around the country to accommodate more than 770 survivors and families of victims figuring as plaintiffs.