Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian far-right extremist, has been sentenced to at least 21 years in prison after a court declared he was sane throughout his murderous rampage last year that killed 77 people and wounded 242.The Oslo district court declared its verdict that the 33-year-old was not psychotic while carrying out the twin attacks, including the shooting of dozens of teenagers attending a political camp.
The court’s decision will have delighted Breivik, who had hoped to avoid what he called the humiliation of being dismissed as a madman.
The mass killer had desperately hoped the court would find him criminally culpable for the killings, claiming they were “cruel and necessary” to protect Norway from becoming overrun by Muslims.
After two months of deliberations, the five-judge panel said they considered the perpetrator of last year’s gun and bomb attacks, the worst in the country’s history, mentally fit enough to be held criminally responsible for the attacks.
As the verdict was delivered to a packed, hushed courtroom, Breivik, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and grey tie, smirked.
Among the 40 or so relatives and survivors in attendance, some nodded silently as the panel of judges shared their unanimous verdict. Many of those most directly affected by the attacks had wanted Breivik judged of sound mind and sent to prison.
During the hour after delivering the verdict, Breivik stared impassively at the panel of judges, blushing only when details of his fictional Knights Templar organisation were read out. The morning session has been spent largely describing Breivik’s meticulous preparations for last year’s twin attacks and how he became obsessed with far-right ideology and computer games.
As details were read out of the injuries sustained by each of the 77 who died and the 242 wounded , Breivik stared across the room. The force of his 950kg Oslo bomb was soon starkly evident to the courtroom, as a number of victims suffered amputations and spent lengthy periods in a coma.
Meanwhile, the court heard fresh details of the killings on Utøya. Breivik was described as acting “frantic” upon arriving on the island dressed as a police officer. At the time, 536 people had gathered on the island for the Labour party’s annual summer camp.
During a killing spree lasting over an hour, Breivik fired 121 shots with his pistol and 136 with a semi-automatic rifle. Many of the victims were executed with close-range shots to the head. One 26-year-old woman was shot six times, including a fatal shot to her head.
Many young victims hyperventilated as they tried to flee. Earlier it had rained and many stumbled and fell on slippery slopes as they ran down to the water’s edges in an attempt to escape.
Emotional problems have been recorded among those who managed to survive and a number of teenagers remain unable to study and are on sick leave, the court heard.
Breivik is almost certain to end his life in prison. Although Norway has a maximum prison sentence of 21 years, Breivik could be sentenced to “preventive detention”, which can be extended for as long as an inmate is considered dangerous to society.
The verdict of the most high-profile criminal trial in Norway since Nazi collaborators were prosecuted following the second world war is certain to provoke a strong response.
Most Norwegians, including the victims’ families, had wanted Breivik to be found sane so he could be held accountable for what they view as a political crime.
The decision also means there will be no appeal. Breivik’s lawyer, Geir Lippestad, promised the gunman will not contest a jail sentence.
Breivik has readily admitted carrying out the twin attacks that shocked the famously peaceful country on 22 July 2011.
After setting off a car bomb outside government headquarters in Oslo, Breivik went on a shooting rampage on Utøya.
Eight people died in the bombing and 69 – 34 of them aged between 14 and 17 – were killed on the island.
The gunman, who has shown no remorse throughout his 10-week trial, has described how he reloaded his semi-automatic rifle while victims sat waiting for him to kill them.
The decision overrides the findings of a report by court-appointed psychiatrists submitted before the start of the trial, which claimed Breivik suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
That claim, if it had been accepted by the court, would have relieved Breivik of his legal responsibility for the crime and ensured his detention in a specially built psychiatric unit inside Ila prison, just outside Oslo.
He will still serve his sentence in the same jail, where he has been held in isolation for most of the time since his arrest.
It is understood he could challenge a preventive detention sentence every five years.
One of the reasons Breivik’s attacks were presented in such graphic detail during the trial was so that the horror of Oslo and Utøya would be well-documented for the day Breivik asks to be released.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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