Breivik deemed sane, prison now possible for Norwegian gunman

The second psychiatric evaluation of Anders Behring Breivik contradicted an earlier conclusion of paranoid schizophrenia, making prison time possible for killing 77 people last summer.

By , Correspondent

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    In a February file photo Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist who confessed to a bombing and mass shooting that killed 77 people last summer, arrives for a detention hearing at a court in Oslo, Norway. Breivik is deemed sane, a psychiatric assessment found on Tuesday, April 10, contradicting an earlier examination.
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A psychiatric report has declared Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik sane, making it more likely that the man who has confessed to twin terror attacks last summer in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity may serve prison time.

The 310-page report counters the first forensic report from November that controversially deemed Mr. Breivik paranoid schizophrenic, and therefore criminally not punishable for a car bomb in front of Oslo government buildings and a shooting rampage at a Labor party youth summer camp at the nearby island of Utøya. The two attacks killed 77 people altogether. 

Psychiatrists Agnar Aspaas and Terje Tørrisen concluded in the second report that Breivik was “not psychotic, unaware or severely handicapped at the time of the acts,” nor was he psychotic during examinations. However, there was a “high risk of repetition of violence.”

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“The defendant does not have a serious mental illness involving significantly weakened capacity for realistic evaluation of his relations with the outside world,” the Oslo District Court said in a press statement summarizing the confidential report.

The report changes the whole momentum of the trial. The judges, who have the final say in determining Breivik's sanity, now have the option of questioning the first report and concluding that he is sane. They will base their decision on both reports, as well as the evidence during the 10-week trial, set to start next week.

It also presents the possibility that prosecutors will seek a 21-year prison sentence for terror and murder acts for Breivik, instead of the current plan to seek having him committed to a mental institution. Although both the prosecutor and defense will be arguing for Breivik to be tried as sane, Breivik has not accepted criminal responsibility for the attacks.

“It is clear that this is an important premise for the case,” said Svein Holden, Oslo public prosecutor, after receiving the thick copies of the second psychiatric report earlier today.

Experts suspected that the new set of psychiatrists would come to a different conclusion than the first set, given that they observed him night-and-day for three weeks in jail. The initial conclusion, which deemed Breivik paranoid schizophrenic, was quite controversial. Many pundits questioned how someone who had meticulously planned an attack over so many years could have been deemed psychotic.

The defense plans to argue Breivik is sane. He himself claims he is sane and condemned the first psychiatric report for lies and errors in a 38-page letter to select Norwegian media last week. He said he knew what was right and wrong, but that he “acted instinctively,” and that being declared insane was a “fate worse then death.”

Breivik was “satisfied” with today’s report and said it was “as expected,” according to Geir Lippestad, Breivik’s defense attorney, after meeting with his client today in prison. Lippestad added his client felt it was important to be deemed sane so that his ideology would “stand stronger.” “Now we have an important argument for Breivik to be recognized as sane,” he said during a press conference outside Ila prison. “It would have been more difficult if the report concluded otherwise.”

Breivik bent on proving his sanity

Breivik’s defense team plans to call in more than 30 witnesses to prove his sanity, primarily through medical experts. It also plans to call in academic experts on extremists, as well as right-wing and Islamic extremists such as Mullah Krekar, the founder of terrorist organisation Ansar al Islam. The point is to prove that others who are not insane share Breivik’s extreme ideological thinking about the war between Islam and Christianity.

“The whole case boils down to the reality orientation that the accused has,” Mr. Lippestad recently told the members of the Norwegian Foreign Press Association. “It’s obvious he has a reality orientation that is especially unusual. There is no doubt about that. But is there nonetheless a little degree of reality in it? That is the question.”

Breivik has defended his acts that day as a “preventive attack on traitors” because the Labor-led coalition government was promoting the “Islamic colonization” of Norway. In his political manifesto, released online shortly before the killing spree, he describes himself as a Knight Templar in a crusade against the Islamic takeover of Europe.

Breivik is scheduled to give his opening testimony in the first five days of the trial, which will begin April 16. His defense team will present its evidence in June, followed by testimony from the forensic psychiatrics. The judges’ decision on Breivik’s sanity is expected sometime in July.

“If sane, the guilt is clear,” says Kristian Andenæes, a criminal law professor at the University of Oslo. “[The defense] then will only argue that there are some moments that are to his advantage. These arguments will not have any effect on the outcome of the trial.”

“The self-defense argument will be regarded as nonsense,” he added.

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