Judge denies Norway gunman a 'soapbox'

A 2009 file image issued by Norwegian police on Oct. 28, 2011, shows confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik in a passport photo. Photo / AP
A 2009 file image issued by Norwegian police on Oct. 28, 2011, shows confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik in a passport photo. Photo / AP

Anders Behring Breivik, who confessed to the massacre of 77 people in Norway in July, has tried in vain to make a show of his first public court appearance, but has been blocked from addressing the families of his victims.

The Oslo district court ruled that Behring Breivik would remain in custody until February 6, when a new custody extension hearing will be held, and announced a possible trial start-date of April 16.

The 32-year-old rightwing extremist, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and light blue tie and sporting a narrow beard, asked judge Torkel Nesheim if he could speak to the families "for five minutes," but was turned down.

It was the first court hearing open to survivors, victims' family members, the media and the general public since the July 22 killing spree.

After the hearing, his lawyer Geir Lippestad, who had asked that his client be set free, said Behring Breivik had prepared a short note, but that he did not know what he had planned to say.

Behring Breivik also attempted to take advantage of his first public appearance since the attacks to make a speech.

"I am a military commander in a resistance movement," Behring Breivik said in a calm voice before questioning the legitimacy of the court to try him.

"You have been mandated by those who support multiculturalism. That is a hateful ideology that aims to destroy the Norwegian society," he told Nesheim, who quickly interrupted him.

The judge said he did not want to offer Behring Breivik "a soap box or an opportunity to justify his actions".

Appearing calm and with a hint of a smile on his lips, the confessed killer turned repeatedly to look at the crowd in the courtroom, which looked on in stony silence.

The court had initially placed a gag order on reporting Behring Breivik's words for fear he would turn the hearing into a platform for his far-right ideology, but later lifted the order.

A ban on publishing pictures or video of him remained in effect however.

Behring Breivik has admitted setting off a car bomb outside Norway's government offices in Oslo on July 22, killing eight people, before going on a shooting rampage on the nearby island of Utoeya where the ruling Labour Party's youth wing was hosting a summer camp.

Sixty-nine people, mostly teens, died in the shooting massacre.

In a 1,500-page manifesto he published on the internet just before the attacks, Behring Breivik said he was on a crusade against Islam and professed his hatred for Western-style democracy, saying it had spawned the multicultural society he loathed.

"I acknowledge the facts but I do not plead guilty," he said, reiterating the line he has taken since his arrest on July 22, describing his actions as "cruel but necessary."

If a psychiatric evaluation, which is set to conclude this month, finds Behring Breivik fit to be held criminally responsible for his acts, his trial should begin on April 16, 2012 and last about 10 weeks, the Oslo court said.

As in past hearings, Behring Breivik on Monday described his incarceration in virtual isolation as an "irrational torture method".

Previous custody extension hearings had all been held behind closed doors for fear that Behring Breivik, who has said he acted alone in the July 22 attacks, might communicate with possible accomplices.

As the investigation has progressed, police have said the theory that Behring Breivik had helpers appeared increasingly unlikely.

In addition to extending his custody for three months, the Oslo court ruled Monday that Behring Breivik's visits and correspondence would be strictly restricted for the first eight weeks and he would have no access to media for the first four weeks of the renewed detention period.

Since the beginning, Behring Breivik has sought as much publicity as possible.

"Our shock attacks are theatre, and theatre is always performed for an audience," he wrote in his manifesto.

Herman Heggertveit, a young survivor of the Utoeya massacre, attended Monday's hearing as "a form of therapy."

"It is very emotional and very difficult. It is like meeting another person," the young man, wearing a pin with a Labour Party rose, told reporters.

"He is arrogant, sure of himself. He is living in his own little bubble."

- AFP

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