Breivik Charged With Terror For Norway Massacre

By Salon Staff

Published March 7, 2012 3:00PM (EST)

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Anders Behring Breivik was indicted Wednesday on terror and murder charges for slaying 77 people in a bomb and shooting rampage, but prosecutors said the confessed killer likely won't go to prison for Norway's worst peacetime massacre.

Prosecutors said they consider the 33-year-old right-wing extremist psychotic and will seek a sentence of involuntary commitment to psychiatric care instead of imprisonment, unless new information about his mental health emerges during the trial set to start in April.

In either case, Breivik could spend the rest of his life in captivity, prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh told The Associated Press.

"Regardless of the sentence, we have promised that we will do whatever we can to keep him away from society as long as the system allows us," she said.

The terror charges carry a maximum penalty of 21 years in prison, but sentences can be prolonged indefinitely for inmates deemed to pose a danger to Norwegian society. Similar rules apply in psychiatric care.

As expected, prosecutors charged Breivik under a paragraph in Norway's anti-terror law that refers to violent acts intended to disrupt key government functions or spread fears in the population.

Breivik has confessed to the July 22 attacks, but denies criminal guilt, portraying the victims as "traitors" for embracing immigration policies he claims will result in an Islamic colonization of Norway.

The indictment listed the names of the eight people killed when a bomb exploded in downtown Oslo and the 69 victims of a shooting spree on Utoya island outside the capital, where the youth wing of the governing Labor Party was holding its annual summer camp.

Reading from the indictment, prosecutor Bejer Engh said 34 of the victims at Utoya were between 14 and 17 years old, 22 were aged 18-20, six were between 21 and 25 and seven were older than 25.

She said 67 died of gunshot wounds, and two died of fall injuries or drowning.

The indictment also listed the names of 33 people wounded in the shooting and nine people who were seriously injured by the explosion in Oslo's government district.

Police spokesman Tore Jo Nielsen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK outside Oslo's Ila prison that Breivik had been "totally calm" when he was read the charges.

Prosecutors prepared the indictment under the assumption that Breivik is legally insane and therefore unfit for prison, but said that assessment could change during the trial.

"We're keeping the possibility open that there could be things during the presentation of evidence that may change our view," Bejer Engh said.

A second, court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of Breivik is ongoing after an initial review — which concluded he was a paranoid schizophrenic — met widespread criticism. Some experts questioned whether someone suffering from a grave mental illness would be capable of carrying out attacks requiring such meticulous preparation.

Breivik himself has rejected the diagnosis and his defense lawyer Geir Lippestad told Norway's TV2 that his client was "disappointed" that it was included in the indictment.

Breivik also rejects the authority of the Norwegian legal system, calling it a tool of the left-leaning elites he claims have betrayed the country.

Investigators haven't found any indications to support Breivik's claims that he belongs to a secret anti-Muslim resistance movement plotting to overthrow European governments and replace them with "patriotic" regimes.

Tove Selbekk, a member of a support group for those affected by the massacre, welcomed the indictment but said many survivors and families of victims are dreading the start of the trial, set for April 16.

"We're very clear on the fact that it will be tough ... to hear him explain himself and to hear about all those who passed away and how they passed away," said Selbekk, whose daughter survived the Utoya massacre. "But this is something we need to go through."

John Hestnes, who heads another support group, said he doesn't care whether Breivik is sent to prison or a mental institution.

"What is important is that he will never see the daylight again," Hestnes told AP.


Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed to this report.

Salon Staff

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