Jonah Hull steals a glance of Norway’s mass killer Anders Behring Breivik and wonders how he could have done what he did.
Anders Behring Breivik has said he should be executed or acquitted for killing 77 people in Norway in July last year in what he said was a battle to defend Europe against mass immigration.
Breivik made the statement in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, after a gruelling day of testimony in which he presented himself as a crusader defending Europe from immigration on behalf of a group of militant nationalists.
“There are only two just outcomes to this case – acquittal or the death penalty,” the 33-year-old said, calling the prospect of a prison sentence “pathetic”.
Norway has no death penalty and formal sentencing cannot exceed 21 years, though Breivik could be held the rest of his life if he is judged to pose a continuing danger.
He could also be sentenced indefinitely to a mental institution.
“If you embrace death before you go into action, you will be ten times as potent,” Breivik said. “I have embraced death.”
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Oslo, said prosecutors were questioning Breivik’s credibility.
“They questioned his claims of writing a manifesto for the ‘Knights Templar’ and Breivik on many occasions refused to answer some of the questions. There were times when Breivik did feel agitated and frustrated by some of the questioning,” our correspondent said.
“I hope that you don’t spend more time on trying to ridicule me,” Breivik told prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh at one point.
Breivik, who killed eight people with a car bomb in Oslo on July 22 and then shot 69 at a Labour Party summer youth camp, went on trial on Monday.
He pleaded not guilty to terrorism and murder charges on grounds of “necessity” and has called his victims “traitors” with immigrant-friendly ideas.
Asked how he had changed from a teenage vandal on Oslo’s prosperous west side to a methodical killer, he said he helped found a militant group called the “Knights Templar” in 2001 but refused to give any details to back up the claim.
The original Knights Templar were a medieval brotherhood of European knights that prosecuted anti-Islamic crusades.
Breivik deflected five straight questions about supposed allies and repeatedly tried to tell prosecutors how to phrase themselves. He became visibly irritated and swivelled a pen in his hand.
“Your intention is to sow doubt whether this network existed,” he said.
After the attacks, police and Western security agencies tried to confirm Breivik’s claim that allies were plotting new actions and that there were some 80 active “cells” in Europe.
Norwegian police said they concluded Breivik was a lone wolf.
With sweat showing on his forehead, Breivik said on Wednesday the figure of 80 cells was “an estimate” and hesitated when asked the basis for it. “I don’t know,” he said. “At the outset we were 15 people.”
Breivik’s trial, to last 10 weeks, turns on the question of his sanity and thus whether he can be jailed. He has said that an insanity ruling would be “worse than death”.
One court-appointed team of psychiatrists concluded he was psychotic, while a second team found him to be of sound mind.
Berivik came off as “childishly defiant”, Tore Sinding Bekkedal, a survivor of the island massacre, said during a break.
“He’s trying to steer the proceedings and failing.”
After an adolescence marked by conflict with Muslim youths from the other side of Oslo, Breivik said, he went to Liberia in 2001 to meet a Serbian nationalist, disguising himself as an aid worker and as a blood-diamond smuggler with a magnifying glass.
From Liberia he travelled to London to meet three other nationalists and supposedly founded the neo-Knights Templar. Later, he said, he met allies in Baltic countries.
Pressed to substantiate the meetings, Breivik said: “I don’t wish to contribute anything that would cause arrests.”
He has acknowledged that a 1,500-page screed he posted on the internet describing the Knights Templar as a large and powerful secret group was an exaggeration, and spent much of Wednesday defending the claim that it existed at all.
“It is important to know what is true and what is made up,” Engh, the prosecutor, said.
“Nothing is made up,” replied Breivik, “but that is written in a context. It is glorifying certain details… It’s sales.”
“What is it you are selling?” he was then asked.
“One sells dreams, if you are trying to inspire others,” Breivik answered.