Breivik trial turns more confrontational as Utøya witnesses begin testimony

The Labor Party youth camp attendees who were on Utøya island when Anders Behring Breivik went on a shooting rampage, killing 69, began their testimony today.

Krister Sorbo/NTB scanpix/AP
The self-confessed killer behind Norway’s twin terror attacks last year, Anders Behring Breivik (r.) and his defense attorney Geir Lippestad sit inside the courtroom in Oslo, Norway, Wednesday, May 9.

The trial against Anders Behring Breivik, the self-confessed killer behind Norway’s twin terror attacks last year, entered a more confrontational stage as the first witnesses from the shooting rampage at Utøya island began testimony today.

Until now, the trial, which addresses Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity, has been calm and civil, with few sharp exchanges. 

Tonje Brenna, general secretary for Labor Party youth and one of several hundred survivors from the Labour Party summer political camp gathering, testified in Oslo District Court that Breivik yelled “satisfied shouts” after shooting his victims. Breivik has denied in earlier court statements that he behaved that way and shook his head in court as he listened to Brenna’s testimony.

“I am sure I heard it, and I am sure there was no grounds for anyone else saying that,” Brenna said when pressed by defense attorney Geir Lippestad if she was certain the shouts came from Breivik. 

Breivik later flashed a disapproving grimace when Brenna described him as a “passive” participant in court, compared to Utøya, where he "controlled" what was happening. He also told the judge he would like to question Brenna about the Labour Party youth’s ideology, a request that was quickly denied.

Brenna was the first of the 46 victims scheduled to testify about the Utøya attack following an emotional week of autopsy reports. Breivik is charged with killing 69, mostly teenagers, during the Utøya attack, as well as eight others in a car bombing of the main government building earlier that day.

The 24-year-old recounted in court of how she survived the attack by hiding in the cliff wall by the water’s edge while Breivik hunted them, unhampered, for more than an hour with a Glock pistol and Ruger semi-automatic rifle.

“I thought it was just a matter of time… the shots were just so close,” Brenna told public prosecutor Svein Holden.

Breivik was today placed one row behind his two main defense lawyers, flanked by two others in his defense team, to shield victims from seeing him directly when they testify. Breivik may also be removed altogether from the courtroom during some of the upcoming Utøya victims’ testimony at their request.

Breivik remained mostly unfazed today, as he has throughout his trial, which is focused on determining his sanity.

One forensic psychiatric report has found Breivik to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and hence criminally not punishable, while a second found no signs of psychosis. Breivik has said he wants to be considered sane to make sure his ideology stands stronger. He claims he is a militant nationalist that targeted the Labor Party because of its lenient immigration policies, which were leading to the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Norwegians through Muslim colonization.

Earlier this week, the court released an updated defense witness list that aims to strengthen Breivik’s case for sanity.

The new list includes more psychiatric personnel who observed Breivik in prison, such as Randi Rosenqvist, a specialist on paranoid schizophrenia, as well as new experts on history, politics, religion, and society. The latter are part of the defense’s effort to prove that Breivik’s extreme political views are at least partly shared by other extremists and not due to psychosis.

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