Prosecutors want killer sent to hospital, not prison
OSLO, Norway — If Norwegian prosecutors get their way, no one will be held criminally responsible for the deaths of 77 people in a bomb and shooting rampage that roiled the peaceful nation.
Even though self-styled anti-Muslim militant Anders Behring Breivik insists he is sane and that he carried out the July 22 attacks for political reasons, prosecutors said in closing arguments Thursday that doubts about his mental state mean he should be sent to a psychiatric institution instead of prison.
Ultimately, it’s up to the Oslo district court to decide whether Breivik is criminally insane when it presents its ruling, expected a month after the trial ends Friday.
Either way, the 33-year-old Norwegian will likely be locked up for most, if not all, of his life. But the outcome will also influence whether Norway’s worst peacetime massacre goes down in history as right-wing terrorism or as the work of a bloodthirsty madman.
“I still think Breivik is clearly sane and that his rhetoric, attitudes and behaviour don’t differ notably from other terrorists,” said Usman Rana, a Muslim immigrant and newspaper columnist in Norway.
Rana said he doubted the psychiatric dimension would have been so prominent if the perpetrator had been an Islamist extremist.
The image of global terrorism was jolted when the blond, blue-eyed gunman surrendered to police after slaughtering 69 people at the governing Labor Party’s summer youth camp. Hours earlier, he had set off a bomb in Oslo’s governing district, killing eight.
Breivik immediately admitted to the attacks and called them justified. The left-wing Labor Party, in power for much of the postwar era, had betrayed the country by allowing Muslim immigrants to settle in Norway, he said.
That kind of rhetoric is not uncommon among far-right fanatics in Europe, but Breivik didn’t belong to any known extremist group.
He claimed to be a commander of a militant network of Knights Templar, but investigators found no trace of it.