Chronicle of a trial foretold: Breivik is following his manifesto's script

Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto includes instructions on what a 'Templar' should do if tried in a European court.

Lise Aserud/Scanpix Norway/AP
Accused mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik gestures on arrival at the courtroom, in Oslo, Norway, Wednesday April 18.

Among the early headlines from the fourth day of the trial of Anders Behring Breivik for the murder of 77 people last July was that, for the first time, Mr. Breivik did not perform his now-familiar clenched-fist salute upon arrival at the court. Several families of Breivik's victims said they found the salute offensive, and his lawyers apparently were able to convince him to stop and avoid undermining his case.

But the drop of the salute is not only significant for its effect on his defense's strategy. It also marks a significant departure from Breivik's playbook: his 1,500-page manifesto. Breivik wrote extensively not only about his own beliefs about the alleged activities of "the Marxist tyrants of Europe" and the mission of the Knights Templar, or "Templars," the group to which he claims to belong. He also wrote a comprehensive set of instructions and guidelines for what a Templar should do if tried in a European court. He appears to be following it to the extent he is able.

Breivik wrote a short section on his salute, which he claims to be "the military salutation" of the Templars. He writes that the salute, which he recommends being performed in a white glove, symbolizes strength, purity, and resistance against "the Marxist tyrants of Europe." Interestingly, he claims the salute has nothing to do with either racist "white power" salutes or with the similar, open-palmed Nazi salute.

While Breivik's manifesto does not mention the salute specifically in reference to a trial, its use at trial fits closely into what Breivik argues is the best way to use trials: as propaganda. Breivik writes that after being captured, "the subsequent court proceedings may present several propaganda opportunities." He adds that "This trial is (from our point of view), not against you but rather a trial against the regime."

One of the key openings for propaganda that Breivik saw is the opportunity to present an opening and closing statement. Breivik includes a four-page sample opening statement, which he seemed to use as a source for his own. 

His sample draws parallels between the quest of the "Templars" and that of Native American leaders like Sitting Bull – parallels he made on the first day of testimony in his own trial. As the Monitor reported, “Were they terrorists for fighting for their indigenous culture … or were they heroes?” Breivik asked the court. “My acts are based on goodness, not evil,” he added. “If anyone is vicious it is the Socialists.”

In the manifesto, Breivik also outlines a dress code for Templars, which he says should be adhered to in court. "Our dress uniform ... will be used for the sole purpose of representing the authority of our military order and tribunal during trial," he writes. The uniform is to include a US Marine Corp dress jacket in dark blue or black, dress pants in the same color, and an extensive set of medals and decorations including epaulettes and Templar badges. Judging from the photos of his appearances in court, Breivik seems to have been following his own dress code as best he can, though he has appeared sans pseudo-military decorations.

In his game plan for Templar trial appearances, Breivik shows every expectation of losing. The heading for his sample closing statement reads: "Closing statement – last day of trial, after judgment (guilty)." But he also expresses hope that the trial may lead to the introduction of stiffer criminal sentences, and perhaps even introduction of the death penalty, which is currently illegal in Norway.

The trial itself may not end up as anything else than a formality where the goal can be to change the law, forcing the parliament of that country to introduce the death penalty, or harshen the penal laws in other ways. Indirectly forcing the parliament of your country to change the laws will be an indirect victory to our movement because it will provide significant media coverage of our cause and thus will contribute to future recruitment efforts.

Breivik echoed this thinking during his second day of testimony, the Monitor reported.

“No, I don’t want [capital punishment], but I would have respected that,” he said, adding that if Norway doubled the current maximum sentence it would “serve his cause” and “prove Norway had thrown their principles out the window."

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