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Europe

Defence lawyers argue Norway gunman Breivik is sane

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-07-16

Norwegian defence lawyers argued gunman Anders Behring Breivik was sane and that he should be sent to prison or acquitted, as his trial came to an end on Friday. Prosecution lawyers had earlier called for him to be locked up in a psychiatric ward.

AFP - Defence lawyers on Friday argued that Anders Behring Breivik was sane and asked he be sent to prison or acquitted as the trial of the man who killed 77 people in Norway last year wrapped up.
              
Exactly 11 months to the day after Breivik's attacks, his main lawyer Geir Lippestad rejected a prosecution call for him to be shut in a psychiatric ward, insisting the confessed killer was sane and should be sent to prison or set free.
              
Though there is no chance Breivik will be acquitted, the defence lawyer was formally obliged to request it since the 33-year-old right-wing extremist has pleaded not guilty, despite confessing to the twin attacks on July 22.
              
That day, Breivik first set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people, before going to Utoeya island, northwest of the capital where he shot and killed another 69 people, mostly teenagers.
              
The victims, the youngest of whom had just celebrated her 14th birthday, had been attending a summer camp hosted by the governing Labour Party's youth organisation.
              
Breivik -- who is due to address the court later Friday -- has evoked the "principle of necessity", claiming his attacks were "cruel but necessary" to protect Norway against multiculturalism and a "Muslim invasion".
              
Yet after spending two hours mainly detailing why his client was sane and should be sent to prison and not a closed psychiatric ward as requested by prosecutors, Lippestad appeared reluctant to ask for acquittal.
              
He fumbled as he wrapped up his arguments, saying just that the defence wanted "Anders Behring Breivik to be viewed in the mildest possible way."
              
When lead judge Wenche Arntzen asked whether this meant he wanted to request acquittal, he first said "no", but after Breivik himself spoke up saying he had no choice, he conceded: "It is acquittal. That is right."
              
With no illusion of getting his client off, the defence focused on the tricky question of Breivik's sanity, which has been the main theme of his 10-week trial that began on April 16.
              
Psychiatric evaluations of Breivik's mental health have sharply contradicted each other, with two court-appointed expert teams reaching diametrically opposed conclusions.
              
Breivik himself is intent on proving his sanity to establish that his far-right, Islamophobic ideology is not just the rantings of a lunatic.
              
Prosecutors argued Thursday that Breivik's sanity had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, referring to the first court-ordered exam that found him to be suffering from "paranoid schizophrenia" and an uncontrollable urge to violence.
              
"Our request is that he be obliged to undergo psychiatric treatment" in a closed unit, prosecutor Svein Holden said, wrapping up the prosecution's three-hour closing arguments.
              
"In our opinion, it would be worse to sentence someone who is psychotic to prison than to send someone who is not psychotic to psychiatric care," he said.
              
Lippestad countered Friday that "it is just as bad to treat a healthy individual (in a psychiatric ward) as to not treat someone who is ill."
              
He spent much of his closing argument attacking the first psychiatric report, seeking instead support in the second report that found Breivik sane to show his client was a political extremist, not psychotic.
              
His actions were "based on extremism," not psychotic delusions or an uncontrollable urge to violence, Lippestad said, stressing that others, albeit a minority, shared Breivik's worldview.
              
If found criminally sane, Breivik should be sentenced to Norway's harshest penalty: 21 years in prison, with the possibility of extending the sentence for as long as he is considered a danger to society, prosecutors said.
              
The judges will rule on the question of whether Breivik is criminally sane or not when they hand down their verdict, which is expected on either July 20 or August 24.

Date created : 2012-06-22

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