OSLO: The lawyer of a Norwegian who killed at least 76 people in a bombing and a shooting spree said Tuesday his client appeared to be a madman.
Friday’s attacks by Anders Behring Breivik traumatized normally peaceful Norway, which has been struggling to come to terms with its worst peace-time massacre of modern times.
“This whole case indicated that he is insane,” Geir Lippestad said of the 32-year-old Breivik, who has confessed to “atrocious but necessary” actions, but denies he is a criminal.
The lawyer said it was too early to say if Breivik would plead insanity, adding that his client might oppose this as he felt that only he “understands the truth.”
Lippestad said Breivik stated he belonged to a network that has two cells in Norway and more abroad.
But police believe Breivik probably acted alone in staging his bloody assaults, which have united Norwegians in revulsion.
“He hates all Western ideas and the values of democracy … he expects that this is the start of a war that will last 60 years. He looks upon himself as a warrior. He [started] this war and takes some kind of pride in that,” Lippestad said.
Lippestad, a member of the Labour party, said he would quit if Breivik did not agree to psychological tests.
Lippestad was previously best known for defending a right-winger who in 2002 received 17 years in prison for the racially motivated murder of Benjamin Hermansen, 15, whose father was African.
Justice Minister Knut Storberget deflected criticism that police had reacted too slowly to the shooting massacre, hailing as “fantastic” their work after the attacks.
“It is very important that we have an open and critical approach … but there is a time for everything,” Storberget told reporters after talks with Oslo’s police chief.
An armed SWAT team took more than an hour to reach Utoya island, where Breivik was coolly shooting terrified youngsters at a Labour Party youth camp. He killed 68 there and eight in an earlier bombing of Oslo’s government district.
Storberget also denied police had ignored threats posed by right-wing zealots in Norway, saying: “I reject suggestions that we have not had the far-right under the microscope.”
Norwegian newspapers published pictures and names of some of those killed on the island northwest of Oslo. The youngest was 14. Many were teenagers or in their early 20s.
Storberget told Reuters television that Norway had received a “hard lesson” but would remain an open and free democracy.
There would be, he said, “more openness, more political activity, a better democracy, more safety for the people, but we have to come back to the concrete measures for that.”
Police defended themselves from suggestions that some alarm bells should have rung about Breivik. The PST security police say Breivik’s name appeared only once, on an Interpol list of 50 to 60 Norwegians, after he paid 120 crowns ($22) to a Polish chemicals firm on a watch list. They found no reason to react.
Researchers doubt Breivik’s claim that he is part of a wider far-right network of anti-Islam “crusaders,” seeing it as bragging by a psychopathic fantasist who has written that exaggeration is a way to sow confusion among investigators.
Yngve Ystad, a Norwegian forensic psychiatrist and adviser to the police, said it was unlikely that Breivik would be found to be psychotic.
“He had planned the crime and he was not in that way disturbed by psychotic or delusional ideas because this has been going on for a very long time and, according to the press, he has not been disturbed or suffered severe disturbances.”
Prosecutors will have to consider whether Breivik’s acts fall under a 2008 law on crimes against humanity, said Staale Eskeland, professor of criminal law at Oslo University.
“To kill a group of civilians systematically is the basic criteria” for charges of crimes against humanity, he said, adding that the maximum penalty for this offense was 30 years in jail, rather than 21 years under the anti-terrorism law.
In both cases the sentence can be extended for up to five years at a time if there is risk of repeat offenses.
In signs that police are skeptical that Breivik was part of a wider network, border controls imposed July 22, were lifted late Monday. Norway has not asked other countries to launch probes, nor has it raised the threat level for terrorism.