OSLO (Reuters) - The Norwegian anti-Islamic gunman who massacred 77 people said in court on Tuesday 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 shooting another 69 people at a youth summer camp organised by the ruling Labour Party.
Taking the stand at his trial for the first time, the high school drop-out read from a statement for an hour, ignoring pleas from the judge to stop and sparking criticism from victims he was being allowed to use the trial for violent propaganda.
The killer, a former business fraudster who lived with his mother, invoked Native American warriors such as Sitting Bull, raged against Islam and multicultural “hell” and warned of “rivers of blood” in Europe.
“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 monotonous, unemotional voice, seated with one hand on his papers and another on his leg.
“The July 22 attacks were preemptive attacks to defend the Norwegian people and the Norwegian ethnicity.”
“Yes, I would have done it again, because offences against my people ... are many times as bad,” he said.
His attacks were “based on goodness, not evil,” he added, saying that teenagers he murdered in cold blood on the island retreat were not innocent but political activists promoting multi-culturalism.
While he will probably 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.
He 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 go to a psychiatric institution indefinitely with periodic reviews.
Before Tuesday’s statement, Breivik had promised to be sensitive to victims and tone down his rhetoric. But the court audience, including survivors, shifted in their chairs, rolled their eyes, and murmured with impatience during his speech.
He ignored the repeated pleas of an angry judge to stop talking. When Breivik started talking about Japan and South Korea as role models, the judge asked him “to limit himself to Norwegian issues.”
Breivik’s testimony, which will go on for five days, will not be broadcast on television due to concerns that the gunman could use the trial as propaganda for his violent cause.
“He is getting what he wants and I don’t want to be a part of that,” survivor Hildegunn Fallang said.
The day began in controversy when the court dismissed a lay judge because 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.
The prosecutor quizzed Breivik about his past, including his avoidance of military service and his career as a failed businessman who once sold fake college diplomas.
“I don’t think he was prepared that he would be so stripped of honour and glory,” said forensic psychiatrist Paal Groendal, who followed Breivik’s testimony in court.
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 for hours as prosecutors read out an indictment detailing how he massacred teenagers trapped on the 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.
His defence team has called 29 witnesses to argue Breivik is sane, including Mullah Krekar, the Kurdish founder of Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, jailed in Norway for five years last month for making death threats, and “Fjordman”, a right-wing blogger who influenced Breivik.
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 site in the chaos following 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.
“It is not so important what he feels,” said Randi Johansen Perreau, a mother whose son was killed on the island. “It is about what he has done and I hope this court will be able to punish him in a way that ... that we can have an ordinary life back, if we can. That is difficult.”
Additional reporting by Victoria Klesty and Terje Solsvik; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Peter Graff