Psychiatrists: Breivik was sane during Norway attacks

Two forensic psychiatrists finished their testimony today, arguing that Anders Behring Breivik did not suffer any psychosis when he prepared and launched his terror attacks last July.

Vegard Groett/NTB Scanpix/REUTERS
Mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik (R) speaks to Vibeke Hein Baera, one of his lawyers, in court in Oslo, Norway, June 18.

The trial against Anders Behring Breivik wound up its final week with psychiatric experts defending their diagnosis that deemed Norway’s most notorious killer in modern times sane and criminally punishable for last summer’s twin terror attacks.

Terje Tørrisen, one of the forensic psychiatrists behind the second of two reports on Mr. Breivik's mental condition, testified in Oslo court that Breivik’s ability to trade stocks and establish illegitimate business enterprises with multiple foreign bank accounts in the years prior to the attacks proves he did not suffer from cognitive deficiencies, as posed in the first psychiatric report, which found Breivik insane.

Mr. Tørrisen also pointed out that the mental health personnel who reviewed Breivik at Ila prison shortly after his politically motivated attacks last July, which left 77 dead, found no signs of psychosis.

“[His] political beliefs are extreme, but not reality-bursting in the psychotic sense,” said Tørrisen, citing one of the doctors who assessed Breivik in late August.

The two days of testimony by Tørrisen and report coauthor Agnar Aspaas will be key in determining whether the prosecution adjusts the indictment later this week to a maximum sentence of 21 years on terror charges. The prosecution is currently recommending that Breivik be sent to compulsory mental-health care based on the first psychiatric report, which deemed him insane and was the only one at the time of the indictment.

Svein Holden, Oslo public prosecutor, has stressed that he would wait until Tørrisen and Mr. Aspaas finished testifying before making a final decision on its indictment, which opens for changes. “We have just begun [writing closing arguments], but unfortunately we have a lot left,” Mr. Holden told the press at the end of court today.

Breivik’s sanity is at the core of this historic trial after the two conflicting psychiatric reports came to opposite conclusions. The first, in November, found Breivik was paranoid schizophrenic when he placed a car bomb outside Oslo government buildings and engaged in an hour-long shooting rampage at the Labor party youth’s political summer camp at Uøtya island.

Psychiatric experts have criticized the first report for not taking sufficiently into account the extreme political ideology behind Breivik’s attacks. The self-described “militant nationalist” accuses the Norwegian Labor party of deconstructing Norwegian society through multicultural policies and lax immigration policies allowing mass Muslim colonization.

“When other revolutionaries break the law, they don’t put a diagnosis on them,” said Breivik, who is fighting to be found sane so that, as he says, his political ideas can stand stronger. “This case seems easy after weeks of witnesses that show this case is about ideology.”

Tørrisen also testified Breivik fulfilled seven of the nine criteria for narcissistic personality disorders, such as a lack of understanding of the concept of empathy, but that did not qualify Breivik as insane under the Norwegian legal definition.

Aspaas added in his testimony that it was not possible for Breivik to hide paranoid schizophrenia during the three weeks they observed him, nor something that would have gone away by itself by the time they began observing him in February.

In the end, even if the prosecutors amend the indictment to seek prison time, the decision on Breivik’s sanity will be up to the five judges who make up the court. The trial ends on June 22 with defense’s closing arguments. If found sane, Breivik faces the possibility of spending life in prison, as Norwegian law allows for permanent detention to be extended in five-year intervals if there is a danger of repetition.

Breivik has warned he will appeal if the court sentences him as insane. A court ruling is expected either July 20 or Aug. 24. If necessary, the appeal is tentatively scheduled to be handled in January 2013.

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