|The indictment noted that 34 of the victims on Utoeya island were between 14 and 17 years old [Reuters]
Norwegian prosecutors have formally charged Anders Behring Breivik with committing acts of terrorism which left dozens of people dead last year, but said he would likely be sentenced to psychiatric care instead of prison.
Breivik, 33, was on indicted on Wednesday under charges of terrorism and premeditated murder for killing 77 people during a bomb and shooting rampage in Oslo and on nearby Utoeya island.
He has confessed to the July 22 attacks but denies criminal guilt, portraying his victims as “traitors” for embracing immigration policies he claims will result in an Islamic colonisation of Norway.
Prosecutors said they would initially seek a sentence of psychiatric care for Breivik but might demand a prison sentence if an initial diagnosis of psychosis is contradicted by a second opinion.
They charged him under a paragraph in Norway’s anti-terrorism law that refers to violent acts intended to disrupt key government functions or spread fears in the population.
After unveiling the indictment, prosecutor Svein Holden told reporters: “The defendant has committed highly serious crimes of a dimension we have no previous experience with in our society in modern times.”
He said the killings included “aggravating circumstances” but did not amount to crimes against humanity under Norwegian law.
A crimes-against-humanity charge would have carried a maximum 30-year sentence, but Holden told the Reuters news agency that Norway’s law applies only to “widespread, systematic” atrocities and not the acts of an individual.
While the maximum conventional prison sentence for terror and murder in Norway is 21 years, courts are permitted after that to extend custody indefinitely if a violent, sane convict is considered likely to repeat his crimes.
The indictment listed the names of the eight people killed when a bomb exploded in central Oslo and the 69 victims of the shooting spree on Utoeya island, where the youth wing of the governing Labour Party was holding its annual summer camp.
Reading from the indictment, prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh said 34 of the victims at Utoeya were between 14 and 17 years old, 22 were aged 18 to 20, six were between 21 and 25 and seven were older than 25.
The indictment also listed the names of 33 people wounded in the shooting and nine people who were seriously injured by the explosion in Oslo’s government district.
Police spokesman Tore Jo Nielsen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK outside Oslo’s Ila prison that Breivik had been “totally calm” when he was read the charges.
A two-person psychiatric team earlier concluded Breivik was psychotic at the time of the attacks, and thus ineligible for prison.
But prosecutors said this assessment could change. A second mental examination is under way, with a new report due six days before the April 16 start of the trial.
The initial review of Breivik’s mental state met widespread criticism.
Some experts questioned whether someone suffering from a grave mental illness would be capable of carrying out attacks requiring such meticulous preparation.
Breivik’s lead lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said the potential for conflicting psychiatric findings complicates the defence.
Breivik himself has rejected the diagnosis and Lippestad told Norway’s TV2 that his client was “disappointed” that it was included in the indictment.
He also rejects the authority of the Norwegian legal system, calling it a tool of the left-leaning elites he claims have betrayed the country.