COMMENTARY: Oslo District Court judge Wenche Arntzen prevented Anders Behring Breivik making an extended address in today’s closing moments of trial lasting 10 weeks and a day.
The verdict says Anders Behring Breivik is sane: it considers him criminally responsible for the premeditated murders of 77 people, what he did being an act of terrorism. The judge then asked Anders Behring Breivik whether he planned to appeal.
Breivik launched into a speech, saying he did not recognise the legitimacy of the court and could not accept the verdict handed down. But equally, he said, he refused to grant the court legitimacy by appealing. He had a message to other “cultural conservatives” in Norway.
Judge Arntzen cut him short, however, saying. “You are not being asked to make a speech, Breivik. You are being asked to tell the court whether you will appeal.” She insisted that Geir Lippestad, the head of his defence team, get a straight answer from him. The answer was that Breivik would not appeal.
State prosecutors are convinced he will not appeal, but Breivik has the right to change his mind during the next two weeks under Norwegian law. At the same time, prosecutors said at today’s press conference afterwards that they will not dispute the ruling even though they had argued for insanity.
72% of Norwegians also wanted him judged sane, so he could be held accountable for his appalling crimes
Many Norwegians were concerned about the possibility of an insanity verdict. Breivik had sworn that he would appeal such an “insulting” decision – he wants his acts to be viewed as political, and did not want to be sentenced to compulsory psychiatric care, with the likelihood of enforced medication.
It would also have meant another trial, and more media attention. If confirmed by a higher court, that verdict would still have left him able to appeal for release on a regular basis.
Perhaps now Breivik will disappear. That is the wish that survivors and bereaved relatives express time and again: that they can live their lives without the constant provocation of his appearance on television and in the media.
Nevertheless, there is an important hurdle still to be overcome. He currently has the right to communicate with his followers by letter. His cell in Ila prison contains a computer, and he has claimed to be writing several more literary works.
The Norwegian state has to find a legal means of depriving him of his right to share these with his followers and prevent them from being published.
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