Mon April 16, 2012
The Two-Way

Norwegian Admits Killing Dozens, But Defies Court

Anders Behring Breivik, accused of killing 77 people in a bombing and shooting spree last year, flashed a Nazi-style salute on the first day of his trial in Oslo on Monday. He admitted to the massacre, but pleaded not guilty, saying he doesn't recognize the authority of the Norwegian court system.

NPR's Eric Westervelt reporting from the trial, says the self-proclaimed anti-Muslim militant told the court he had acted to "protect" Europe from being taken over by Muslims.

"I admit to the acts, but not criminal guilt," Breivik, 33, said, insisting he had acted in self-defense.

Before the trial began, Breivik's lawyer, Geir Lippestad, told reporters that his client only wished that he had been able to kill more people.

"It is difficult to understand, but I am telling you this to prepare people for his testimony," Lippestad said.

Here's an Associated Press video of Breivik's appearance.

Among the dead in the July attack were 69 people attending a labor party summer camp, most of them teenagers. Shortly before the attacks, Breivik allegedly posted a manifesto online purporting to be from a group called the Knights Templar. Breivik claims to have founded the organization, but prosecutors have said there is no evidence that such a group exists.

The New York Times reports that Breivik entered the courtroom dressed in a dark suit, delivering a clenched-fist salute before shaking hands with court officers.

Sporting a neatly trimmed beard around his chin and jaw, he seemed to alternate between nervous perusal of notes and smirks toward photographers.

Asked to identify himself, he gave his name and denied a court official's statement that he was unemployed and lived in prison. "That is not correct," he said. "I am a writer and I work from prison."

According to the AP, Breivik "suddenly became emotional when prosecutors showed an anti-Muslim video that he had posted on YouTube before the killing spree, wiping away tears with trembling hands."

The key issue to be resolved during the 10-week trial is the state of Breivik's mental health, which will decide whether he is sent to prison or into psychiatric care.

If Breivik is deemed mentally competent, he would face a maximum prison sentence of 21 years or an alternate custody arrangement.

Norway does not have the death penalty.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.