For an eerily long time, Anders Behring Breivik seemed to enjoy being on trial for one of the worst single-handedly executed mass murders in history. The court proceedings became a platform to repeat his stances on the infiltration of Muslims and non-Christians into “white” Europe. There was no question of his guilt: after detonating a car bomb in Oslo that killed eight people he drove to nearby Utoya island and shot 69 others. The question was: would the sentence fit the crime—especially if he was deemed insane? If he were mentally ill, liberal Norway’s laws would have remanded him to medical care until he was considered well enough to be released into society. The thought of such a possibility horrified the country.
At the beginning of his trial, Breivik e read a statement in which he claimed to be a member of a “Norwegian resistance movement” and demanded that “our ethnic rights not be taken away from us.” He called his attack one of self-defense saying it was “the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack in Europe since the Second World War.” “I did this out of goodness, not evil,” he said. “I would do it again.” He even told the parents of his victims that the teenagers bore the blame for their own deaths, that they were not innocent, nonpolitical children but rather young people who worked to actively uphold what he said were unforgivable, multicultural positions.
Nevertheless, after some controversy, judges sided with a panel of psychiatrists who deemed Breivik, 33, bad but not mad. And in time, during his trial, the boastful killer’s self confidence was visibly shaken. While the rest of the world would be stunned at what seemed to be a brief sentence—21 years in prison—Norway was satisfied. If he is still considered a danger to society at the end of that spell in jail, the courts can extend his sentence in five-year increments for the rest of his life.
“Although the court finds it improbable that the defendant will be released. Our democracy will still exist, it will still have different cultures and different religions,” said Judge Arne Lyng, reading from a 90-page judgment. “After having served his sentence, the perpetrator will probably still have the desire and the will to carry out violence and murder.”