Norwegian Mass Murderer: Attacks Were 'Spectacular'
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
In Norway today, the far-right extremist who has confessed to murdering 77 people last summer took the stand for the first time. Anders Behring Breivik tried to justify his deadly shooting rampage with a long, at times rambling and contradictory, diatribe. His lawyers had warned Norwegians, especially survivors, that their client would show no remorse on the stand. As NPR's Eric Westervelt reports from Oslo, they were right.
ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Referencing an eclectic mix of influences from Thomas Jefferson to Native American Chief Sitting Bull to German neo-Nazis and the tactics of al-Qaida militants, Breivik read an hour-long invective. He denounced what he called a post-World War II conspiracy by cultural Marxists and liberals in education, the media and political spheres to undermine democracy, and pollute Norwegian society with immigrants.
He called his attack the most spectacular, sophisticated political act in Europe since World War II. The court allowed journalists to cover his testimony, but barred any recording of his statements to avoid giving a broadcast platform to his extremist views.
He referred to himself as commander of an anti-communist, anti-Islamist resistance movement, defending the ethnic rights of white Europeans, a group called the Knights Templar. Prosecutors, however, say no such group exists. They believe Breivik acted alone. He showed no remorse for his violence or empathy for his victims, most of them teenagers who were attending an island summer camp run by the youth wing of the ruling Labour Party.
He claimed his victims were, quote: not innocent, non-political children. They were young people who actively worked on multicultural values - he said, and compared them to brainwashed Hitler Youth. Breivik said calmly that he would have done it all again, and claimed he acted when he did to prevent a wider racial civil war.
Pressed on that point by prosecutors, Breivik compared his rampage to the Americans' use of the atomic bombs on Japan at the end of World War II. They did it for something good, he said, to prevent further war - adding, we have to take up guns; violent revolution is the only way to resolve the matter.
When he launched into a long digression about how, for him, Japan and South Korea were models of racially pure countries, the presiding judge politely tried to get him to wrap it up. But Breivik was emphatic: This is the basis of my whole defense - he said - and all of it is relevant. The judge let him continue.
Breivik admits he carried out the killings, but claims he's not criminally guilty because in his mind, he acted out of self-defense. The July 22nd attacks were a preventive strike, he said today, in self-defense of my people, my country.
Just outside the courthouse, survivors said they found the day excruciating - and Breivik's rant, at times, incomprehensible.
IVHAN THORENSEN: I don't understand him, of course. But it's an explanation for why he did it.
WESTERVELT: Twenty-six-year-old Ivhan Thorensen steadied himself on metal crutches. He was badly wounded in Breivik's car bombing last July. He spent nearly a month in the hospital. He's had five operations so far. Yesterday in court, he had to watch closed-circuit video footage of the car bombing that filled his legs with shrapnel. Today, he says, hearing Breivik's speech just a few feet away left him feeling drained.
THORENSEN: It's really hard to explain but before, I feel really empty inside. I can't really explain how I felt because I still think the situation is so unreal. So I would say emptiness is a good description of how I felt, actually.
WESTERVELT: Trond Blattmann, whose teenage son was murdered by Breivik on Utoya Island, directs a support group for victims' families and survivors.
TROND BLATTMANN: It was tough for the survivors and the bereaved, and so on. But I think it was necessary - to give the whole picture of who is Anders Behring Breivik; why did he do what he did; how did he - became to be what he is today? And I think that's important to get the court system to know, and get the judges to know.
WESTERVELT: He added that he doesn't care about Breivik's rambling political statements today. He's not a politician, Blattmann said. Quote: He killed 77 people, and tried to kill several more. He's ruined people lives. He's a mass murderer and nothing else, and that's what we're focused on.
Eric Westervelt, NPR, Oslo.
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