There is a touch of Hollywood about Geir Lippestad, the shaven-headed, softly spoken lawyer who has taken on the seemingly indefensible task of defending Anders Behring Breivik.
A batch of glossy colour photographs has been doing the rounds in the Norwegian media over the past few days. They might have been lifted from the popular, super-stylish American TV series Mad Men. The pictures show a trio of male lawyers and a woman, who make up Lippestad's law firm, in a subtly lit frame, gathered around a black-leather sofa.
Lippestad sits unobtrusively on the left, legs crossed, wearing a light grey suit and staring defiantly straight ahead. His laid-back colleagues strike similarly resolute poses. Last week the law firm dismissed suggestions that it was seeking undue publicity. But the message was unavoidable: Geir and his gang are the acme of cool and they mean business.
The 48-year-old lawyer has been in the limelight ever since he decided - just two days after Breivik carried out his twin terror attacks in July last year - to represent the right-wing extremist killer.
The lawyer is anything but a covert right winger with hidden sympathy for Breivik's genocidal philosophy. He is a longstanding member of the Norwegian Labour Party, whose young members Breivik gunned down in cold blood.
He is also the father of eight children. Two of them suffer from disabilities and one of them, his 16-year-old daughter, Rebekka, became critically ill earlier this year. She survived and soon afterwards his wife gave birth to another girl. Lippestad says that Breivik's mass murder of young people made him feel guilty about having another child, when so many fellow Norwegians had lost sons and daughters.
Lippestad received threats when it became known that he intended to defend Breivik, and at one time he needed a bodyguard. He says he is driven by an unswerving conviction that in a democratic society such as Norway even perpetrators of the most heinous crimes have a fundamental right to full legal representation.
"No matter how horrible the crime, a defendant has to be represented. This is just a vital brick in the wall of democracy, and I would say that 99 per cent of Norway understands that this is absolutely essential to a sound justice system," he says.
Lippestad is one of the few people in Norway to have had regular contact with Breivik. "He believes we are at war. He wishes for a new world order which few people agree with," is how he describes the mass murderer's insistence that his actions were designed to root out multiculturalism and prevent Muslim "world domination".
As his counsel, Lippestad is in the unenviable position of having to provide arguments that will in some way try to justify Breivik's views. "In the majority of trials, you have a defendant who denies the facts or says he did not intend to do what he did," Lippestad says. "Here you have someone who recognises the facts [and] who takes responsibility for them. He wants to be found sane and accountable."
-IndependentBy Tony Paterson