Norway mass killer deemed sane in new finding

Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:04pm EDT
 
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By Walter Gibbs and Victoria Klesty

OSLO (Reuters) - Anders Behring Breivik was sane when he killed 77 people in attacks he saw as punishing pro-immigration "traitors" in Norway, a psychiatric team said on Tuesday, contradicting a prior report that found him psychotic.

The new report could give judges grounds to sentence Breivik to prison instead of a psychiatric facility.

Breivik himself has insisted he is mentally stable and demanded that his attacks - the most violent in Norway since World War Two - be judged as political militancy and not the work of a deranged mind.

Breivik, 33, has admitted detonating a bomb that killed eight people at government headquarters in Oslo on July 22, then massacring 69 people with gunfire at a Labour Party summer camp. Most of the camp victims were teenagers.

His trial on terrorism and murder charges is scheduled to start in Oslo next week and last 10 weeks.

"We're talking about psychosis, and we have found no evidence of it," psychiatrist Asgar Aspaas told reporters after submitting the 310-page report based on weeks of round-the-clock observation.

Aspaas was one of two experts appointed to provide a second opinion after a previous team using different methods found Breivik to be a psychotic who also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The initial finding caused a public uproar.

"It's a completely open question now," said Jo Martin Stigen, a University of Oslo law professor. "I don't think we can rule out that he will be considered legally sane in the end."

The dueling psychiatric teams are expected to defend their diagnoses in court, which is unusual in Norway. The final ruling will be made by a five-judge panel as part of its verdict at the end of the trial.

SATISFIED

Defense attorney Geir Lippestad told reporters Breivik was satisfied by the new report and that Norwegians should brace themselves for "tough and demanding" testimony by the killer who espouses far-right ideology.

"Not only will he explain (his actions), but he will also say he regrets that he didn't go further," Lippestad said.

Lippestad has said he will call political experts, historians and even a radical Islamic cleric to testify that Breivik's view of irreconcilable cultures is shared by others.

If he is found guilty and the judges agree he is sane, Breivik could face 21 years in prison with the potential for unlimited extensions to prevent him from repeating his crimes.

If Breivik is ruled psychotic he could face an indefinite period of psychiatric care in a locked facility.

District Judge Ina Stroemstad, who is not on the case, said the trial judges would have to sort a tangle of evidence about Brevik's mental state, including his behavior in court.

"There is a broad picture now, with elements that do not go in the same direction, and that might make their conclusion more difficult," Stroemstad said.

At a preliminary hearing Breivik denied criminal guilt and suggested his actions were part of a war to save European culture.

"I am a military commander in the Norwegian resistance movement and Knights Templar Norway," Breivik said, echoing a written manifesto in which he called himself "a hero of Europe, a savior of our people and of European Christendom".

The new psychiatric report was not made public except for its main conclusions, while key parts of the prior evaluation made their way onto media websites.

"The background for the killings are his paranoid psychotic delusions that he is a participant in a civil war where he is responsible for deciding who lives and dies," the first report said. "His mission is to save the entire western world's culture and genes."

In a letter last week to news media, Breivik called the initial finding of psychosis a "humiliation" and said the experts seemed too traumatized by the killings to be objective.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

 
Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people, arrives at a court hearing in Oslo February 6, 2012. REUTERS/Lise Aserud/Scanpix Norway