Anders Breivik Pleads Not Guilty at Norway Murder Trial

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Lisa Mullins: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is "The World". Some painful memories surfaced today in Norway. It was the first day of the trial of Anders Breivik. He is the man who confessed to setting off a car bomb in Oslo last July and then going on a shooting rampage at an island camp for young people. Seventy seven people died in one of the darkest days in Norway's modern history. Today, Breivik appeared in court to plead not guilty. He argued that he acted in self defense. This trial is being televised, something that's unheard of in Norway. The BBC's Lars Bevanger was at the courthouse in Oslo.

Lars Bevanger: The indictment itself is a pretty harrowing reading because it contains the names of all his seventy seven victims. That took almost two hours to read out, during which Breivik didn't seem to show any emotions, but later on when the court showed a propaganda video that he himself had made, he burst into tears, and all of this, of course, is very hard to take in for many of the victims and their families who were present in court today.

Mullins: What's on the video? Can you describe it?

Bevanger: Well, on the video he presents what he claims is his political ideology in which he argues that he is at war against what he calls "multiculturalism and the threat of Islam". So he's arguing he's not guilty as charged. He has only acted in self defense.

Mullins: He says he acted in self defense. He also made a particular motion and I wonder if you can tell us what the reaction was to it? When he was in court he clenched his fist at one point, brought his fist to his heart, and then thrust his arm forward in what appears to be an extremist salute. Can you tell us more about that and how he conducted himself?

Bevanger: I think people are starting to get used to the way he's acting and the greatest surprise today, I think, was when he showed real emotion and broke down in tears, albeit not over his victims seemingly, but of his own homemade video.

Mullins: Does the question of understanding Breivik's sanity remain?

Bevanger: That is a central question to this court's case because we'd had now two psychiatric reports, one concluding that he was criminally insane and the second one, which was published only last week, concluding the opposite. The judges will have to decide whether he's fit to be sentenced to prison or whether he is not fit, in which case he would sentenced to psychiatric care.

Mullins: I wonder if you can put into perspective what this trial means for the people of Norway.

Bevanger: It is highly unprecedented to televise anything from trials in this country. They decided to do so now because they deem this case to be of such importance to the nation, that people need to know what's going on. Most of it will be televised apart from his own testimony and also some of the more harrowing witnesses. It has changed society in a way, but in a positive way if you like. The people say that they're more secure now. They're happy with the way the government handled things and they feel closer to each other as a result of what happened.

Mullins: That's the BBC's Lars Bevanger who's covering the Breivik trial in Oslo.