x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Norwegian mass killer's lawyer says Breivik is insane

Thousands mourn among a sea of flowers in Oslo, as lawyer says right-wing extremist who killed at least 76 people in bomb and gun attacks in Norway may resign if his client refuses a psychological evaluation.

OSLO // The right-wing extremist who killed at least 76 people in bomb and gun attacks in Norway is mad, his lawyer said yesterday.

"This whole case indicates that he's insane," Geir Lippestad told his first news conference since taking the case. "He has a view of reality that none of the rest of us share."

Mr Lippestad could not say if he would use insanity as a defence, especially as his client, Anders Behring Breivik, might not agree.

But he will insist that Breivik undergo a psychological evaluation, and indicated that he may resign as his lawyer if his client refuses.

He also said Breivik had talked about belonging to a network that consists of at least two more cells, although police say it is more likely that he acted alone.

Mr Lippestad said: "He looks upon himself as a warrior. He starts this war and takes some kind of pride in that."

The police yesterday released the first four names of the victims, three from the blast at the government offices in central Oslo and one from the shooting spree on the island of Utoeya. They ranged in age from 23 to 61.

Mr Lippestad's remarks yesterday echoed the sense of bewilderment about the attacks among many Norwegians: the notion that Breivik has a mental disorder has been embraced by many who cannot imagine their normally peaceful country to be the scene of political violence on this scale.

Up to 150,000 people carrying candles and flowers held a vigil for the victims, many of whom were members of the Labour party's youth movement, in the centre of Oslo on Monday night.

Thousands more congregated yesterday around a sea of flowers and candles outside the city's main cathedral, the Domkirke.

The many written messages spoke of "sadness" and "shock".

Ingrid Aune, 25, a member of the Labour party's youth movement who left Utoeya shortly before the gunman attacked, said that despite a rise in sentiment against immigrants and against the Labour party, the party's summer camp on the island had never felt a threat.

"Utoeya has always been a safe place. A place for free political discussions," she said outside the cathedral. "Not only on Utoeya but also as a member of the Labour party and the Labour youth movement, I have never felt unsafe."

She did not think Norwegians had been naive about the growing debate on immigration. "I don't think we were ever naive. On the contrary, we have the best solution: openness, democracy and a multicultural society."

One man putting down a bunch of red roses outside the cathedral said he did not believe the attack had anything to do with Norwegian society. "This happens everywhere," he said. The killer's right-wing ideology was irrelevant to Norway, he said. "It hardly exists, maybe only a few isolated people believe in it."

Others spoke of the "psychological problems" of the killer and said they had never detected such anger about immigrant or multicultural issues in society.

Breivik's father, Jens, who lives in France and has not seen his son in 17 years, told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK he also thinks his son has some mental disorder. "In my darkest moments, I think that rather than killing all those people, he should have taken his own life," he said.

On Monday the killer was remanded in custody for eight weeks, of which the first four will be in solitary confinement to prevent him from contacting associates or tampering with evidence.

Lena Andreassen, the former leader of an extreme right-wing group, the Norwegian Defence League, an offshoot of the English Defence League, EDL, said the movement had expelled Breivik from its ranks before the attacks "because he is too extreme in his views". Ms Andreassen said she thought Breivik had acted alone.

But the leader of the EDL, Stephen Lennon, said that while he did not condone the attacks, he thought it was an expression of the "growing anger" that many Europeans are said to feel about Muslim immigration.

He said the events in Oslo should be a wake-up call. "You suppress people's rights, you suppress people's voices and people will just continue to go underground, but that doesn't make the problem go away," he said.

In Italy, Mario Borghezio, a member of the European parliament for the Northern League, a coalition party, praised Breivik's ideas. "Some of the ideas he expressed are good, barring the violence, some of them are great," he said.

 

foreign.desk@thenational.ae