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Performing Justice, Coping with Trauma: The Trial of Anders Breivik, 2012



This chapter elaborates on the different strategies of some of the main actors in the Breivik trial, particularly the defendant and his defence team, and the Attorney General and the prosecution’s team. The main sources are Breivik’s compendium 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, an accurate word-for-word transcript of the court proceedings, the sentence handed down on 24 August 2012, as well as selected literature and media sources. The authors were also present in court during parts of the trial, conducted a survey amongst the population in- and outside the courtroom regarding their perception of the trial and the strategies of the actors involved and interviewed the main actors (but not Breivik himself). One of the authors of this chapter (Tore Bjørgo) also appeared as an expert witness in court.
10. Performing Justice, Coping with Trauma: The trial
against Anders Breivik, 2012
Tore Bjørgo, Beatrice de Graaf, Liesbeth van der Heide, Cato Hemmingby and Daan
In: Beatrice de Graaf & Alex P. Schmid (eds., 2016). Terrorists on Trial: A Performative
Perspective. Leiden: Leiden University Press
10.1 Introduction
The sophistication behind the attacks, the extreme brutality, the number of victims and the
fact that 33 of the 77 persons killed were under age 18, made the 22 July 2011 attacks in
Norway one of the major terrorist incidents in the history of terrorism. Compared to other acts
of terrorism conducted by a single actor, it was unique in its destructiveness. The subsequent
trial was also unique for the Norwegian judicial system and court administration.
At the same time, it was also a highly dramatic and explicit example of a terrorist
suspect’s attempt to turn his trial into a theatre. In his 1,500-page manifest that Anders
Behring Breivik posted on the internet, he wrote ‘your trial will offer you a stage to the
In addition, the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang published extracts of a letter
Breivik sent from his cell in which he stated that the court case looked like a circus, ‘it is an
absolutely unique opportunity to explain the idea of 2083 [the manifest] to the world’.
described the attacks in Oslo and Utøya as only the first part of his ‘operation’. With his trial,
or what he called the ‘propaganda phase’, the time had come to convince the public of his
This chapter elaborates on the different strategies of some of the main actors in the
Breivik trial, particularly the defendant and his defence team, and the General Attorney and
the prosecution’s team. Main sources have been Breivik’s compendium 2083: A European
Declaration of Independence, an accurate word-for-word transcript of the court proceedings,
the sentence handed down 24 August 2012, as well as selected literature and media sources.
The authors were also present in court during parts of the trial, conducted a survey amongst
the population in and outside the courtroom regarding their perception of the trial and the
strategies of the actors involved and interviewed the main actors (but not Breivik himself).
One of the authors of this chapter (Tore Bjørgo) also appeared as an expert witness in court.
We will first focus on the attacks in Oslo and Utøya, Breivik’s early life and the events
leading up to these attacks. Important information on this pre-history has been gleaned from
Anders Behring Breivik, 2083: A European declaration of independence’ (2011),
independence/, p. 947.
Verdens Gang, ‘Breiviks egne ord fra fengselscellen’ (27 March 2012),
juli/artikkel.php?artid=10064799. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
These parts are based on the following article: Beatrice de Graaf, Liesbeth van der Heide, Sabine Wanmaker
and Daan Weggemans, The Anders Behring Breivik Trial: Performing justice, defending democracy. ICCT-
research paper. (The Hague: ICCT, June 2013), pp.1-20.
Based on his statements as an expert witness in the trial, Tore Bjørgo has published the article Højreekstreme
voldsideologier og terroristisk rationalitet: Hvordan kan man forstå Behring Breiviks udsagn og handlinger?’
Social Kritik, 131 (2012), Retrieved on 20
June 2013.
Breivik’s manifesto and other open sources. The manifesto provides valuable insights into
Breivik’s underlying motives and the pathway to his atrocities. Subsequently, we will discuss
the course of the trial. Thirdly, we will focus on what happened outside the trial. For instance,
what happened in Norwegian society after the attacks and during the trial? How did the
population in and outside the courtroom respond to the performative strategies of the actors
involved? We will discuss the extent to which the trial affected coping mechanisms within
Norwegian society and what classical goals of justice were served by it.
10.2 Before the trial (the attacks and the manifest)
10.2.1 The attacks
The attacks on the 22nd of July 2011 were the highest manifestation of violence in Norway
since the Second World War. The fact that an act of terrorism of this magnitude could happen
in a small, homogeneous, highly affluent and stable society of less than five million members
was for many incomprehensible.
At 15.26 pm a bomb exploded in Oslo’s government district. The blast damaged
buildings and blew out windows over more than a half-mile radius.
Among them was the 17-
storey building where the prime minister had his offices. The explosion killed eight people
and injured at least 209 people. At about 16.57, approximately 38 kilometres northwest from
the city centre of Oslo, a person dressed as a policeman asked a ferryman to transport him to
Utøya Island where an annual youth camp took place organised by the Norwegian Labour
Party. At that moment there where 560 people on the island. The ‘policeman’ told everybody
that he was sent there following the attacks in Oslo. But after embarking on the island, he
opened fire, eventually killing 69 people. People panicked and fled into the woods or jumped
into the cold water, trying to swim to the shore some 600 metres away. One of the survivors,
who had been spared by the shooter because he resembled a right-wing supporter
, reported
the killer shouting ‘I will kill you all’ and ‘today it is your time to die’ when he was aiming at
the swimming youth.
The youngest victim was 14 years old.
During the shooting the killer called the police saying ‘My name is Anders Behring
Breivik, of the Norwegian anti-communistic resistance movement. I am at Utøya and I wish
to surrender’.
The police only arrived after half an hour and another phone call by Breivik
Norway attacks: Oslo hit by bomb explosion and youth shot at camp’, The Guardian, 22 July 2011, Retrieved 3 October
Verdens Gang, ‘Adrian Pracon: At han ser noe så grusomt i meg vil jeg ikke ta innover meg’ (2011), Retrieved 19 October
NRK, ‘At jeg lever er like tilfeldig som at andre døde’ (2012),
husket-adrian-pracon-1.8092843. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
‘“There’s someone shooting just outside. He’s coming in”: Terrifying phone call of survivor of Breivik’s
massacre is played to court’, Daily Mail (2012),
Behring-Breivik-trial-Terrifying-phone-survivor-Norway-massacre-played-court.html. Retrieved 3 October
Tape of Anders Behring Breivik’s phone call to police after mass murder on Utøya released’, Telegraph
Breiviks-phone-call-to-police-after-mass-murder-on-Utøya-released.html. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
himself. Breivik then surrendered, was arrested and his ‘operation’ brought to an end.
For years, Breivik had been planning the attacks. He claimed to have studied over 600 bomb
making manuals,
amongst those al-Qaeda’s tactics manuals (accessed by means of Google
Translate). Breivik considered different scenarios for spreading his ideas. In the first instance,
he intended to raise three million Euro in order to publish and disseminate his 1,500-page
manifesto ‘2083: A European Declaration of Independence’. After coming into financial
difficulties, he embraced a much more violent ‘plan B’.
This plan involved detonating three
car bombs at different locations in Oslo (amongst these the government district, the Labour
Party’s office and the Royal Palace or the headquarters of the newspapers Aftenposten and
Then, if he would survive the explosions, he would carry out a shooting spree
while driving a motorbike, aiming at a suicide-by-cop. This plan was discarded since building
a bomb was ‘much more difficult than he expected’.
Instead, he decided to deploy a vehicle-borne explosive device, containing a self-
constructed fertiliser bomb, in Oslo’s governmental district, close to the offices of the
Norwegian Prime Minister. The idea was ‘to bring the building down’, to destroy the ministry
office and kill all those present there. When this did not happen, he choose to proceed with the
shooting spree at Utøya. Breivik: ‘If the building had collapsed then going onto Utøya would
have been unnecessary and I would have driven straight to a police station and surrendered. I
had thought of this in advance’. At Utøya, his primary target was the former prime minister
Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was visiting the island.
His aim was to decapitate Brundtland
while filming her, achieving maximum impact with his killings. When it became clear that
she had already left the island, he shifted his target to the members of AUF, Labour´s youth
10.2.2 Manifesto and motive
Previously, Breivik had been a prolific internet debater, initiating discussions on the dangers
of Islam and immigration. But only hours in advance of the attack, he announced his actions
by sending out his manifesto, written under the pseudonym ‘Andrew Berwick’, to thousands
of people.
He disseminated it amongst sympathisers and people whom he had randomly
Anders Behring Breivik describes Utøya massacre at Oslo court’, Guardian (2012), Retrieved 3 October
‘Anders Behring Breivik Googled 600 guides to help build bomb’, Metro (2012),
bomb. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
How many I murder? Gunman asks what toll was and talks of “60-year war”’, Daily Mail (2012),
did-I-murder.html. Accessed 3 October 2012.
Anders Behring Breivik trial, day four: Thursday 19 April’, Guardian (2012), Retrieved 3 October 2012.
‘Anders Behring Breivik spent years training and plotting for massacre’, Guardian (2012), Retrieved 3 October
Victims were paralysed by fear as I fired: Breivik recounts island youth camp massacre in horrifying detail’,
Daily Mail (2012),
killer-recounts-Utøya-island-massacre-horrifying-detail.html. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
Breivik, ‘2083’, p.1462.
found on Facebook,
and posted a twelve minute video called ‘Knights Templar 2083’ on
YouTube as well. The video presented an analysis of the imminent multiculturalist ‘threat’.
The manifesto offers some insights into what motivated Breivik.
The manuscript
contains a diagnosis of everything Breivik considered perverted in Western society, and at the
same time offers a road map to overcome these ills. In his ‘compendium’ of documents,
mainly composed by others, he first of all tried to demonstrate the rationality behind his fear
of Muslim immigration. Islam, he wrote, poses a direct threat to the humanistic, Jewish and
Christian cultural heritage of Europe, and European social democracy did nothing to resist
this, throwing the doors wide open instead. Hence, the whole European political system had
failed in protecting the core values. Breivik then proceeds in outlining a radical reform plan.
In historical analogy to the Battle of Vienna of 1683, when the European powers joined forces
against the Ottoman Empire and started the Great Turkish War, he proposes a similar
campaign to fight the islamisation of Europe. An elite order called the ‘Poor Fellow-Soldiers
of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon’ which he more often refers to as ‘The Knights
Templar’, was to act as a vanguard force.
Based on the crusader myth, Breivik claims to
have founded this order anew in 2002, and devised it to act as ‘leaderless network, made to be
self-driven cells’. His Knights Templar were ‘to defeat the cultural Marxist/Multiculturalist
Alliance of Europe, seize political and military control of Western European countries and
implement a cultural conservative political agenda’.
According to the Manifesto, the campaign consists of three phases. The first phase
(from 2009-2030) aims ‘to take the “anti-Jihad movements” to a second level, approach,
cooperate with and/or merge with Christian movements and other cultural conservative
movements (who agree on a set point of principles)’.
By means of ‘open source warfare’,
combined with ‘military shock attacks by clandestine cell systems’, social unrest was to be
fomented, leading to citizens questioning the state of their societies
a classical right-wing
‘strategy of tension’-approach. The second phase (2030-2070) projected an advanced status
for the Knights Templar’s resistance front. Around this time, when 15 to 60 percent of the
European population would already consist of Muslims, resistance groups were to join forces
with regular armies while preparing for ‘pan-European coup d’états’.
The third phase (2070-
2083) would culminate in the actual execution of multiple coup d’états. A cultural
conservative agenda was to be implemented. Deportation of Muslims would be initiated, and,
category A (political, media, cultural and industrial leaders) and category B (people who have
actively supported or stimulated multiculturalism) traitors were to be executed.
described his envisaged utopian end state as a society bearing semblance to the in his words
monocultural, but highly developed and progressive ‘Japanese’ or ‘South Korean’ system.
Politically, a ‘European Federation’ should be created, based on national sovereignty and
completely sanitised of ‘multiculturalism or Marxist principles’.
‘Manifest Breivik: fascinerende kijk in het hoofd van een terrorist’, De Volkskrant (2011),
Breivik-fascinerende-kijk-in-het-hoofd-van-een-terrorist.dhtml. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
Why does Norway’s Breivik invoke the Knights Templar?’, Christian Science Monitor (2012),
Knights-Templar-video. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
Breivik, ‘2083’, p.831.
Ibid, p.661.
Ibid, p.827.
Ibid, p.812.
Ibid, p.938-939.
Ibid, p.1072.
Ibid, p.842.
10.2.3 Breivik’s life and pathway towards the attacks
The Manifesto also contains autobiographical sketches. Breivik was born in Oslo on 13
February 1979 and lived the first year of his life in London. His father Jens Breivik worked as
a diplomat at the Norwegian embassy in London (later in Paris); his mother was a nurse.
When Breivik was one year old, his parents divorced and he moved back to Oslo with his
mother and half-sister. He visited his father and stepmom frequently until he was fifteen when
the contact was cut off. According to Breivik, his father ‘wasn’t very happy about my graffiti
phase from 13-16’.
Breivik’s father, however, contends that Breivik himself broke off
Although Breivik stated that he hadn’t ‘really had any negative experiences in my
childhood in any way’, psychiatrists concluded that he must have felt emotionally abandoned,
and therefore missed an important part of childhood and adolescence.
In A Norwegian
Tragedy, publicist Aage Borchgrevink revealed the conclusions of different reports from
(youth) psychiatrists who observed Breivik in 1983 after his mother had asked for their help.
One expert noticed the peculiar way in which the four-year-old Breivik smiled, as if he
understood how and when to smile, but without the actual emotional basis of joy.
also diagnosed his mother, Wenche Behring, as having an ‘instable personality’. She
frequently hit her son, while at the same time sleeping in the same bed.
Therefore, in 1983,
psychiatrists advised the authorities to transfer Breivik to a different environment. An advice
that was dismissed by child protection services.
At a later stage of his life, Breivik attended the Hartvig Nissen High School in Oslo
where he was described as an intelligent student. During this period, he developed his graffiti
skills, which led to frequent arrests by the police. He also started working out and used
anabolic steroids.
Since he was teased for having an ‘Arab nose’, he underwent a corrective
nose operation when he was twenty.
In 1997 he joined the youth league of the
Fremskrittpartiet (FrP), a conservative liberal political party known for its anti-immigration
campaigns, and stood candidate in the local elections in Oslo. Breivik: ‘FrP appealed to me
because I had experienced the hypocrisy in society first hand and I knew already then that
they were the only party who opposed multiculturalism’.
Breivik was active for the FrP until
2006. He quit when he realised that a ‘democratic struggle against the Islamisation of Europe
[...] was lost’:
Ibid, p.1387.
‘Breiviks far vurderer å besøke sønnen i fengsel’, Abc Nyheter (2011), Retrieved 15
October 2012.
A. Borchgrevink, En Norsk Tragedie: Anders Behring Breivik og veiene til Utøya (Gylendal: Oslo, 2012); A.
Falk, ‘Mass Murder as Unconscious Liberation: Reflections on the Norwegian tragedy of 2011’ (2012), Retrieved 17 October 2012. Ostlendigen,
Psykiater Finn Skå rderud: Ekstremt Viktig å forstå mer av Breivik’ (2012),
1.7201624. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
Nettavisen, ‘Slik var Breiviks barndom’ (2012),
Retrieved 10 October 2012.
‘Skrøt av egen briljans, utseende, kjærester og penger’, Dagbladet (2011), Retrieved 27 July 2011.
‘Breivik’s ex-friends suspected he was depressed, possibly gay’, The Associated Press (2012), Retrieved 29 May 2012.
Breivik, ‘2083’, p.1378.
It is simply not possible to compete democratically with regimes who import
millions of voters. 40 years of dialogue with the cultural
Marxists/multiculturalists had ended up as a disaster. It would now only take
50-70 years before we, the Europeans are in a minority. As soon as I realised
this I decided to explore alternative forms of opposition. Protesting is saying
that you disagree. Resistance is saying you will put a stop to this. I decided I
wanted to join the resistance movement. However, the main problem then was
that there weren’t any alternatives for me at all.
After graduating from the Oslo Commerce School (1995-1998), he found a job at a customer
service company before he started his own business in computer programming, allegedly in
2002. In his Manifesto he claims to have expanded his firm to six employees, and registered
several offshore bank accounts. The money he made, and the funds he salvaged after his
bankruptcy, were already intended at that stage to be spent ‘on both writing the book and [...]
the operation,’ so he says.
All in all, he allegedly spent ‘130 000 Euros from his own pocket
and 187 500 Euros for loss of income during three years’.
Breivik also went travelling, and describes how he (allegedly) visited the opening
meeting of his Knights Templar in London, in April 2002 a meeting that could not be
corroborated by any other source or receipt:
There were only 5 people in London re-founding the order and tribunal (1 by
proxy) but there were around 25-30 attending in Balticum during the two
sessions, individuals from all over Europe; Germany, France, Sweden, the UK,
Denmark, Balticum, Benelux, Spain, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Austria,
Armenia, Lebanon and Russia. Electronic or telephonic communication was
completely prohibited, before, during and after the meetings. On our last
meeting it was emphasised clearly that we cut off contact indefinitely. […]
This was not a stereotypical “right wing” meeting full of underprivileged racist
skinheads with a short temper, but quite the opposite. Most of them were
successful entrepreneurs, business or political leaders, some with families,
most of them Christian conservatives but also some agnostics and even atheists
[…] I was asked, not only once but twice, by my mentor; let’s call him
Richard, to write a second edition of his compendium about the new European
Data from the Customs authority confirmed Breivik’s visit to the United Kingdom, but the
existence of this network could not be proven by anyone.
Breivik also went to Liberia, by
his own account to meet a ‘Serbian crusader and war hero who had killed many Muslims in
battle’. According to the prosecution, Breivik went there only to buy ‘blood diamonds’, and
possibly even fell ‘prey to a Nigerian internet scam’.
As for the other 24 countries, he
Ibid, p.1378.
Ibid, p. 1381.
Ibid, p.15; ‘Anders Behring Breivik Trial- Monday 16 April’, The Guardian (2012), Retrieved 17 October
Breivik, ‘2083’, p.1379.
A rational being and the insanity’, The Foreigner (2012),
being-and-the-insanity/. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
Norway mass killer Breivik was victim of “blood diamond” scam, court hears’, New York Post (2012),
O. Retrieved 10 October 2012. See also: Anders Breivik was victim of “blood diamond” scam’, The
allegedly visited several other countries (including China, Mexico, Malta, Cyprus and
Nigeria), but not much information is available apart from his own statements. Flight records,
for example, show that Breivik went to Malta with his mother, for holiday, although he
himself claims to have gone there to study the forefront of ‘Europe´s defence from North
After his bankruptcy in 2006, he moved back to live with his mother in Oslo to write
his compendium while saving money for the attacks. During this period, friends testified,
Breivik became more and more isolated, and addicted to Internet gaming.
Breivik indeed
considered his skills at ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ as ‘part of [his] training-
simulation’, while ‘World of Warcraft’ helped him to detach him from his ‘old life’, most of
his network and prepare him for his campaign.
In the autumn of 2009 he set up a new company, ‘Breivik Geofarm’, intended as a
‘credible cover for [his] activities’.
Through this venue, he would be able to obtain the
supplies for the explosives he wanted to fabricate, such as fertiliser. Two years later, in June
or early July 2011, he rented a farm in a village called Åsta, about 2.5 hours from Oslo, to
cultivate sugar beets. He started purchasing fertiliser, some six tons in total. But he only
appeared on the Norwegian Police Security Service’s radar when he also acquired a small
amount of chemicals (worth less than 20 Euro) on a Polish website. Customs officials’
warnings (twice) to the security services were not followed up. In late August 2010 he went to
Prague to buy weapons, stayed there for six days, but he returned empty-handed. He then
decided to register for a weapons permit in Norway and obtained both a Glock pistol and a
.223-calibre Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic carbine. According to the Manifesto, he now
entered into the final preparatory stage, which lasted a few weeks, in which he read, wrote,
radicalised further, collected supplies for the attacks, studied history, trained himself in
shooting and learned how to manufacture a bomb.
After the massacres in Oslo and Utøya on the 22nd of July Breivik was arrested and
brought, through angry crowds, to a holding cell in Oslo. During one of the first interrogations
he called the 22nd of July ‘the worst day of [his] life’.
He furthermore expressed surprise that
he was not being tortured. ‘It ought to be introduced in Norway’, he added.
However, he did
opt to make good use of the Norwegian legal order and prerogatives. Breivik specifically
asked for and got lawyer Geir Lippestad.
The reason for this is probably connected to the
fact that Lippestad ten years earlier defended the neo-Nazi Ole Nicolai Kvisler, who together
with two others committed the racist murder of 15-year-old Benjamin Hermansen in 2001.
Breivik had then followed the attorney’s performance and he actually, by coincidence,
Telegraph (2012),
was-victim-of-blood-diamond-scam.html. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
Breivik’s ex-friends suspected he was depressed, possibly gay’, The Associated Press (2012), Retrieved 29 May 2012.
Breivik, ‘2083’, p.1418.
Ibid, p.1416.
R. Spaaij, Understanding Lone Wolf Terrorism. Global patterns, motivations and prevention (Springer: New
York, 2012), p.71.
Anders Behring Breivik Psychiatric Report (29 November 2011), Paragraph 2.5.2, Retrieved 2
October 2012.
Later in the courtroom Lippestad would be accompanied by Vibeke Hein Bæra, a former public prosecutor.
They were supported by Tord Jordet and Odd Ivar Grøn, two of Lippestad’s employees.
The case of a neo-Nazi, Ole Nicolai Kvisler, who was convicted for the murder of a young Norwegian-
Ghanaian teenager and sentenced to 17 years imprisonment:The lawyer “defending the indefensible”’,
Independent (2012),
indefensible-7645968.html. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
worked in the same building as Lippestad at the time.
What Breivik probably didn’t know
was that Lippestad as late as in 2010 was an active, leading member of a local branch of the
Labour Party in Oslo, and as such a representative for the Cultural-Marxists that Breivik so
very much hated and wanted to kill.
When Lippestad mid-August 2011 told Breivik about
his affiliation with the Labour Party, Breivik responded very calmly, without surprise or
Upon accepting Breivik’s request, Lippestad himself received numerous threats, and
even had to appoint a bodyguard. However, according to Lippestad: ‘No matter how horrible
the crime, a defendant has to be represented. This is just a vital brick in the wall of
democracy, and I would say that 99 percent of Norway understands that this is absolutely
essential to a sound justice system’.
10.3 The indictment
On the 07th March 2012 the indictment was formally read out to Breivik in his cell at the Ila
Prison, just outside the city of Oslo.
After some debate and pressure from the Norwegian
public, the director of public prosecutions also included the full names of the victims, and the
details of their deaths.
The statement held Breivik responsible for:
Having committed a terrorist act in [...] bringing about an explosion whereby
loss of human life or extensive damage to the property of others could easily
be caused [. . . and] premeditated murder where particularly aggravating
circumstances prevail [...] with the intention of seriously disrupting a function
of vital importance to society, such as the executive authority or seriously
intimidating a population.
Norway had not experienced an offense of this magnitude since the Second World War, nor a
perpetrator so fully committed to his crime as Breivik. The prosecutor therefore felt that ‘new
serious offences of the same nature may reoccur’.
The indictment further reiterated a
forensic psychiatric statement from 29 November 2011 by Torgeir Husby and Synne Sørheim
who had diagnosed Breivik as psychotic at the time of the criminal actions and during their
observation after his arrest.
The prosecution took over their conclusions that Breivik was
suffering from the delusion to be ‘participating in a civil war where he is responsible for
deciding who shall live and die, and that he expects a power takeover in Europe’.
Given this
diagnosis, the experts assumed ‘that a similar scenario might unfold in the future, and believe
Geir Lippestad, Det kan vi stå for (Oslo: Aschehoug, 2013), p.40.
National broadcaster NRK, Breivik erkjenner massedrap (23 July 2011), Retrieved 2 February 2012.
Lippestad, Det kan vi stå for, p.89
Anders Behring Breivik indicted for the “worst crime in modern Norwegian history”’, The Telegraph (2012),
worst-crime-in-modern-Norwegian-history.html. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
‘Sladder ikke tiltalen’, An (2012), Retrieved 14 October 2012.
Indictment against Breivik, Complaint No.: 11762579 10094/11-115 / SHO017 (2012),,_Anders_Behring_Breivik.pdf. Retrieved 2
October 2012.
Anders Behring Breivik Psychiatric Report 2011-11-29 (2011). See note 46 above, paragraph 8-9.
Anders Behring Breivik Psychiatric Report 2011-11-29 (2011). See note 46 above, paragraph 5-9.
that there is a significant risk that people in the subject’s proximity, like prison or hospital
employees, may also become part of his paranoid delusional world and included in his
homicidal thoughts’.
Breivik himself did not seem to have any insight in his illness.
Consequently, ‘the requirement that he be judged sane has not been fulfilled’,
and the
prosecution required ‘a sentence ordering his transfer to compulsory mental health care’.
This conclusion became a bone of contention during the next weeks and throughout
the time of the trial. Contrary to Breivik’s wishes and strategy, not the attacks or his
Manifesto were centre stage, but the trial gravitated around the question of his sanity.
10.4 The 22nd of July Trial
The extraordinary dimensions of the trial the number of victims and relatives, and the global
span of the media attention took a heavy toll on the authorities. Presiding judge Wenche E.
Arntzen admitted that the case raised both practical and legal dilemmas for the court system;
the court had to acknowledge and illuminate the gruesome and brutal details, did not want to
compromise the legal rights of the perpetrator, all while being respectful and considerate
towards the victims and their relatives present. An almost impossible combination of
On 16 June 2012, the pre-trial hearing took place. Main actors present were the court
administration, the defendant and his defence team, the prosecutors, the two court-appointed
psychiatric teams, as well as the legal representatives for the victims. Expert witnesses, police
witnesses, victims and other witnesses prepared their performance, and both victims and
national and international media institutions were given a number of seats in Courtroom 250
in the Oslo Court House, or in a number of television-linked courtrooms in Oslo and
elsewhere in Norway. Parts of the proceedings were also broadcast on national television an
unusual openness even for Norwegian standards.
As explained in this book’s introduction and elsewhere, terrorist trials are often more
about the performance than the verdict.
This was certainly true for the ‘22 July trial’ – as the
court sessions were labelled in public, in order to avoid honouring Breivik’s name. Pre-trial
public tension and expectations did not relate to the question of guilt (contrary to other
terrorism trials), as Breivik’s culpability stood undisputed. The debates and often emotional
interventions concerned rather the organisation of the trial, the possible behaviour of the
defendant in court, and the plight of the victims and relatives. Public upheaval, however,
focussed predominantly on the question of Breivik’s mental state. Would the defendant be
found mentally accountable, or would he be ruled insane, and hence sentenced to compulsory
mental health care a prospect that inspired quite some public indignation.
The trial attracted massive attention, not only in Norway, but all over the world. Apart
from Breivik’s testimony and that of his witnesses, all court proceedings were broadcast live.
Only the newspaper Dagbladet offered a ‘Breivik free zone’, where a click on a black button
would conceal all Breivik related articles.
The Oslo District Court had estimated that the
trial would attract 1,000-1,400 people on a daily basis and built a new high-security
courtroom. In the main courtroom 190 places were reserved for the victims. About 2,500
The Telegraph (2012), see note 53 above.
Indictment against Breivik (2012), see note 55 above; see also: The Telegraph (2012), see note 53 above.
‘Jon Even Andersen (NTB): Derfor oppnevnte retten nye terrorsakkyndige’, Aftenposten (16 March 2013).
Beatrice de Graaf, Evaluating Counterterrorism Performance (Oxon: Routledge, 2011), p.226.
65 (2012), Retrieved 9 August 2012.
people were able to follow the trial via a live-stream video broadcast in 18 courts around the
In addition, facilities were provided for about 1,500 journalists. The total sum of
these arrangements were estimated at 76 million Kroner (€10.5 million).
Breivik got the
stage he was expecting.
10.5 Strategies in court
On 16 April 2012 Breivik entered the courtroom, clenched his right hand fist, touched his
heart and extended his arm. The salute was described in his Manifesto:
The military salutation of the [...] Knights Templar is the clenched fist salute.
The raised fist salute consists of raising the right arm with a clenched fist
(preferably with a white glove). The clenched fist symbolizes strength, honour
and defiance against the Marxist tyrants of Europe while the white glove
symbolizes purity, duty, kinship and martyrdom. Using the right arm
symbolizes the tradition of the ‘Right Opposition’.
Public prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh responded by walking towards him and merely shook his
Later that day Breivik made it clear that he did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the
court. ‘I do not recognise the Norwegian courts. You have received your mandate from
political parties which support multiculturalism’.
He specifically denied the authority of
presiding judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, whom Breivik accused of partiality. Arntzen was
close friends with the former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland’s sister, the
same Brundtland whom Breivik had wanted to kill at Utøya. He however refrained from
making a formal assertion. All in all, the first day already saw a number of highly
performative strategies in the courtroom. We will discuss the strategies adopted by the
prosecution and the defence team, including Breivik’s own performance, below.
10.5.1 The prosecution’s strategy
The prosecution’s strategy was threefold. First and foremost, Breivik’s atrocious deeds had to
be put before the judges in full detail. Second, justice should be administered as normal. And
third, Breivik had to be found insane and sentenced to mental health care.
The handshakes with Breivik initiated by prosecutors Engh and Holden illustrate the
second point. Whereas international media reported it as ‘a bizarre protocol’,
a ‘rare sight in
A. Leer, ‘Norway readies for its trial of the century’. BBC News Europe (2012), Retrieved 9 August 2012.
A. Reed, K. Myers, J. Kremer, Breivik claims Self-Defence as Oslo Terror Trial Starts’, Bloomberg (2012),
starts.html. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
Breivik, ‘2083’, p.1092.
Chief prosecutor, In the trial of Norwegian killer, Anders Breivik, Inga Bejer Engh on Newsnight, BBC
Newsnight (2012), Retrieved 12 October 2012.
Breivik trial: Key moments of opening day’, BBC (2012),
17733869. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
Self-pity of a Killer: Anders Breivik sobs in court after admitting murderous “acts, but not the criminal
guilt”’, Mirror (16 April 2012), Retrieved 7 October 2012.
the U.S., as well as in neighbouring Sweden and other Nordic nations’
, Bejer Engh defended
her gesture. ‘My goal has been to treat him like any other criminal, and I think that’s
important’, she said.
The prosecution’s first goal, however, was to do justice to the victims, their relatives
and their emotions as well. Therefore, a highly detailed account of the course of events was
On the first day the names and causes of death of all of the 77 victims as well as
the names and the injuries of the wounded were read out in court by prosecutor Inga Bejer
Engh. Parts of this record were repeated and integrated by the judges in the final verdict
again. Engh and her colleague Svein Holden described the horrible circumstances of the
attacks in full detail: ‘He shot at people who were fleeing or hiding, or who he lured out by
saying he was a policeman’.
After that, security-camera footage and recorded cell phone calls from victims in Oslo
and Utøya were presented, such as the phone call Renate Tarnes made, while hiding in the
toilets and whispering to the emergency services: ‘Come quickly [...] There’s shooting all the
Some of the victims and relatives left the courtroom; Holden himself later admitted
that it had been almost unbearable to listen to these recordings. The prosecution asked
different survivors and family members of victims to describe what they had endured and
what the consequences of the attacks had been for them. Other stories were read out loud by
the prosecution themselves.
The third aspect of the prosecution’s strategy proved to be the most controversial.
From the first days onwards, the prosecutors did everything to identify flaws and errors within
Breivik’s stories. By portraying his ‘militant ultra-nationalist’ narrative as a delusion, the
prosecution wanted to convince the ‘mainstream’ Norwegian public of its point of view, while
at the same time undermining Breivik’s possible future martyr status for other right-wing
In line with this, the prosecutors repeatedly tried to refute the existence of the Knights
Templar organisation. When Breivik refused to produce any detail on the founding session of
the organisation in London in 2002, Bejer Engh questioned the whole meeting:
Engh: ‘[...] but what I think is important that you have in mind now is that you
explain to the court what is true and how you have experienced it. That is
what is important to get, not what you may remember and have told the
police [or] not told the police, but you have to make a choice now to tell it
that you believe is true and how you experienced these events’.
Breivik: - ‘Mm. But ....’
Engh: - ‘This is your chance ....’
Breivik: - ‘I also understand the role of the police, versus my role. It’s not my
job to investigate this matter. It’s not my job to provide information that
‘Anders Breivik Trial: Suspect defends Norway massacre, insists he would do it again’, Huffington Post (17
April 2012),
indreboe_n_1430483.html. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
‘Anders Breivik pleads not guilty at Norway murder trial’, BBC News Europe (16 April 2012), Retrieved 12 October 2012.
‘Norwegian Man Claims Self-defence in Killings’, New York Times (2012),
norway.html?pagewanted=all. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
‘Prosecution Chips Away at Breivik’s Claim of Militant Network’, The Epoch Times (18 April 2012),
222845.html. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
leads to arrests. It is the police’s job. And I do not want to contribute to
that happening. And another thing that I also react to, I know how you and
Holden have put up examination, and that is very special, then, that you
and Holden ignores radicalisation points ... (inaudible) that you have
found the reason why this has happened, rather then you have chosen a
strategy of delegitimisation to try to strip me [of my] credibility. Instead of
trying to find out the reasons . . . you see, or what?’
Breivik’s trip to Liberia, allegedly to meet a Serbian warlord, was questioned as well.
According to the prosecutors, the only reason the defendant went to Liberia, was to purchase
so-called ‘blood diamonds’:
Breivik: - ‘I do not want to comment on Liberia or London’.
Engh: - ‘No ... Why did you try?’
Breivik: - ‘I’m not going to comment on it’.
Engh: - ‘What is the risk to say something about this now, Breivik?’
Breivik: - ‘No, well, I do not want to make your [delegitimisation] efforts
easier. But I may well help to clarify points related to radicalisation
Engh: - ‘We did a little bit yesterday, we walked a bit through it yesterday, and
we can certainly come back to it later’.
Breivik: - ‘It is well that it is essential in this case’.
Engh: - ‘Yes, of course. It’s an important part’.
Breivik: - ‘Do not try to ridicule me’.
Engh: - ‘No, not trying to ridicule you. I try to shed light on the matter’.
These two quotes illustrate that Breivik did see through the strategy of the prosecutors, and
resisted their attempts. The prosecutors put him in a defensive position though, e.g. when
Svein Holden revealed how Breivik sold fake diplomas and degree certificates and how he
lost his long-time job.
The question, however, remained whether Breivik really considered
himself ‘master over life and death’ and believed in his own phantasies, or whether he was
playing a game and following his own strategy of mobilising a potential core of followers.
Interestingly, Professor Einar Kringlen, one of the grand old men in Norwegian
psychiatry who for months supported the first report, changed his view after seeing Breivik in
court, concluding that he did not display any signs of being psychotic.
The first team of
forensic psychiatrists who had found Breivik psychotic and with paranoid schizophrenia did
not change their assessment during the trial. When challenged by the judges on why they had
not consulted external experts on right-wing extremism and terrorism when they, admittedly,
had no knowledge on this, they stated: ‘If someone had claimed that he was Jesus or
Napoleon, we would not have seen any need to consult a theologian or a historian’.
In their closing statement, the prosecution argued for a sentence of compulsory mental
health care. They acknowledged that evidence presented during trial could support the
22nd of July Court Transcripts, ‘Transcript 2012-04-18’, Oslo District Court (18 April 2012)
‘Breivik trial: Key moments of opening day’, BBC News Europe (16 April 2012), Retrieved 5 November 2013.
‘Oppsiktsvekkende helomvending’, Aftenposten (27 April 2013), Retrieved
5 November 2013.
The quote is based on Tore Bjørgo’s notes from the court proceedings.
argument that Breivik was not psychotic on 22 July.
However, they reasoned that the doubt
of his mental state, seen in the light of the existing legislation and practice, out-ruled
punishment and so they called for compulsory mental health care. They argued that it would
be far worse to give one psychotic preventive detention, than force a non-psychotic to
psychiatric treatment.
10.5.2 Breivik’s strategy
Before carrying out his attacks, Breivik was aware that a trial could provide him with a stage
to the world. He wrote in his manifesto: ‘If you for some reason survive the operation you
will be apprehended and arrested. This is the point where most heroic Knights would call it a
day. However, this is not the case for a Justiciar Knight. Your arrest will mark the initiation of
the propaganda phase. [...] Your trial offers you a stage to the world’.
For his ‘propaganda phase’ it was not only the attacks, but even more so a subsequent
trial which would enable him to communicate with like-minded people from all over the
globe. Illustrative for this intention was his request to wear his self-made uniform covered
with medals of honour, portraying himself as a military war-hero.
Breivik did not try to
‘win’ the trial in terms of avoiding imprisonment – after all, he did not deny perpetrating the
attacks but used the trial to win over more sympathisers to his mission. He wanted to
generate a ‘maximum amount of sympathisers and supporters’.
Newspaper Verdens Gang
published extracts of a letter Breivik sent from his cell in which the defendant underscored
this point: ‘The process looks like a circus with 450 accredited journalists from all over the
whole world. I cannot say I look forward to it, but it is certainly a unique opportunity to
explain the idea of 2083’.
This was also reflected in the letter Breivik sent to Beate Zschäpe who stood accused
of acting as an accessory on ten right-wing extremist murder counts in Germany in May
2012. The letter was intercepted by the authorities and was obtained by the German magazine
Der Spiegel. It opened with ‘Dear sister Beate!’, and discussed what Breivik thought were the
political motives behind the acts of which Zschäpe was being accused. In this letter he
advised her to ‘reveal [her] political motives to the population’ and that she should use her
upcoming trial ‘to spread right-wing propaganda’ as he had done as well.
The closing statement from the prosecution in the Breivik-trial (21 June 2012), Retrieved 22
June 2012.
Ibid. See also: ‘Lippestad: Breivik ikke overrasket over aktors påstand’, Aftenbladet (21 June 2012),
2992045.html. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
Breivik, ‘2083’.
Breivik i avhør: - Slik var min pompøse uniformsbløff’, Dagbladet (15 April 2012),
0/. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
Breivik ‘2083’, p.1104.
‘Breiviks egne ord fra fengselscellen’, Verdens Gang (27 March 2012), Retrieved 22 June 2012.
‘“Martyrs for the Conservative Revolution”: Mass-Murderer Breivik writes neo-Nazi Zschäpe’, Der Spiegel
(19 November 2012),
terrorist-suspect-beate-zschaepe-a-868042.html; “Breivik skriver til “kjære søster Beate”’, Dagbladet
Nyheter (18 November 2012),; and ‘Murderer
Breivik gushes to German “Nazi killer”’, The Sun (18 November 2012),
Retrieved 5 November 2013.
A ruthless hardliner with a pompous posture meeting psychiatry
For Breivik to use his trial as a podium he needed to avoid being assigned the status of
‘insane’. From the moment Breivik was arrested he sought to reinforce the fear that he had
caused by his gruesome actions. He did so by claiming that two other cells were ready to
strike and that he was a Justiciar Knights Commander of the European Knight Templar
network; presenting it as an elitist initiative for militant ultra-nationalists against the Cultural
Marxists and the threat from Islam.
Breivik did nothing to moderate this impression for the following weeks and months.
In the first remand hearing on 25 July he demanded that he be allowed to wear his self-made
Commander uniform, but this was refused by the judge due to the seriousness of the case and
because it would be disturbing, provocative and offending.
His defence team, led by attorney Geir Lippestad, had from the start an agreement
with Breivik that they should take care of the legal issues, while Breivik could do whatever he
wanted with everything else, including the political dimensions.
Following this, the defence
planned a strategy to go for a delusion plea that Breivik was mentally ill and not responsible
for his actions, with compulsory mental health care as the verdict of the forthcoming trial. The
defendant had initially no objections to this. At the same time, the court initiated a psychiatric
evaluation of the perpetrator, and on 28 July the forensic psychiatrics Torgeir Husby and
Synne Sørheim were given the task. Not surprisingly, the question of the mental condition of
the perpetrator was of great public interest and it was widely covered in the media.
The two psychiatrists delivered their report on 29 November 2011, concluding that
Breivik suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and that he was psychotic during the attacks
and the period of observation afterwards. This assessment had a profound impact on the
strategies of Breivik and his defence; as well as for the General Attorney and the prosecution,
represented in court by Svein Holden and Inga Bejer Engh.
For the prosecution, the report became the basis for the indictment made by the
General Attorney, who concluded that they had no other alternative than to go for an insanity
plea and that he should be convicted to compulsory mental health care, which also meant that
Breivik could not be held accountable or be punished for his acts.
For Breivik the report came as a disastrous shock. Even though he knew that the
defence team was working for a compulsory mental health care verdict without objections on
his part, he immediately characterised the first report as the ultimate humiliation.
This fear
of being regarded as mentally ill is not uncommon for terrorists eager to communicate an
ideological message. The Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski is another example in this
Breivik was outraged by the first psychiatric report’s conclusion that he was a
paranoid schizophrenic. In a 38 page letter he wrote that it was the ‘worst that could happen
[...] as it would be the ultimate humiliation. [...] Sending a political activist to a mental
hospital is more sadistic and cruel than killing him! It is a fate worse than death’.
If he
wanted to inspire future generations of violent right-wing extremists he needed to be
perceived not as a loony who should be locked up in a mental hospital but as a rational being
‘Anders Behring Breivik vil bruke uniform i rette under fengslingsmøte’, VG Nett (25 July 2011), Retrieved 15 March 2012.
Lippestad, Det kan vi stå for, p.42.
‘Kamp om Breiviks psyke’, Dagavisen (NTB) (10 April 2012)
breiviks-psyke/. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
Sally C. Johnson, Psychological Evaluation of Theodore Kaczynski (1998), Retrieved 20 February 2013.
Breivik i protestbrev fra cellen: “Verste som kunne rammet meg”: Massedrapsmannen om å bli erklært
utilregnelig’, VG Nyheter (4 April 2012),
juli/artikkel.php?artid=10049584. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
who was not afraid to rise from the passive masses and express a widely-shared belief.
Breivik therefore requested his lawyer Geir Lippestad from now on to not plead insanity as a
strategy to escape a long prison sentence. On the contrary, refuting the insanity imputation
should be one of the main goals of the defence.
In response to the first psychiatric report Breivik claimed that 80 percent of the
information regarding the interviews, which formed the basis of the report, were ‘fictional,
malicious or very sophisticated lies’.
He claimed to have found 200 errors in the report and
questioned the integrity of the researchers, stating that ‘their political views made them
obfuscate the accounts of their sessions [...]. Their aim was quite clearly to create the premises
that support the diagnosis they reached early on’.
In addition to the first psychiatric report there were two other important factors that
made a considerable impact on Breivik. Firstly, he was granted access to media output two
weeks after the report, effective 13 December 2011 onwards. The defence had collected
newspapers from the time after the attacks and it is most likely that the news media’s
description of him did not live up to his expectations. Secondly, he started receiving letters
from sympathisers around the world who made the point that an insanity verdict would
destroy his possibilities to be taken seriously and make him only a parenthesis in the history
books. So in a few weeks’ time the psychiatric report, the media access and letters from
sympathisers affected Breivik profoundly. As stated by attorney Lippestad, to Breivik the
insanity issue now became a question about politics and not his own personality.
therefore decided to change the defence strategy; a message that Lippestad received on 23rd
It seems like the strategy for a delusion plea was abandoned at this point,
although the defence waited to announce this fact.
Towards a second psychiatric evaluation
The forensic psychiatric report was controversial from the day the main conclusions were
made public. The report was highly confidential but was soon leaked to journalists who gave
experts, and later the public, access to it. The report and its conclusions came under heavy fire
from two different groups of experts. From one side, leading psychiatrists and psychologists
claimed that the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and psychosis were wrong and not
documented in the material presented. From another perspective, experts on right-wing
extremism (including TB) claimed that the psychiatrists clearly had no knowledge about the
ideological context of Breivik’s acts and statements, and misinterpreted them as expressions
of paranoid misconceptions, although they were quite mainstream among militant right-wing
In an op-ed article, Tore Bjørgo stated that the report reminded him of two Norwegian
psychiatrists who went to the jungles of New Guinea to assess the saneness of the locals
without any cultural knowledge.
Both the terminology and the worldview of Breivik were of
a typical right-extremist nature. Lacking knowledge about this ideological context, the
forensic psychiatrists misinterpreted many of Breivik statements, such as assessing his claims
that he was engaging in a civil war as ‘expressions of paranoid misconceptions’. Likewise, his
‘Les deler av innledningen i Breivik-brev’, VG Nyheter (4 April 2012), Retrieved 3 February 2013.
Lippestad, Det kan vi stå for, p.103.
‘Jeg har ikke snakket med Breivik siden vi avsluttet saken’, Dagbladet (21 November 2012),
Retrieved 3 February 2013.
‘Tore Bjørgo: Med monopol på vrangforestillinger’, Chronicle Aftenposten, (7 December 2012),
Retrieved 2 June 2013.
suspicion that he was under security services’ surveillance, and the measures he took to avoid
such surveillance, was interpreted as ‘expressions of paranoid misconceptions’. However, in
this respect, Breivik was more reality-oriented than his psychiatrists he should have been
under surveillance by security services and had every reason to believe that he was. The
psychiatrists relied solely on a psychiatric frame of reference and did not consider any
alternative hypotheses or interpretations.
These points were later repeated and elaborated in
Bjørgo’s testimony as an expert witness during the trial.
The fierce public debate and the professional disagreement among leading
psychiatrists in Norway about Breivik’s mental health led to an uncertainty the court was
uncomfortable with. The judges on the case had also noted that the experienced staff at Ila
Prison, which included one of Norway’s leading experts on forensic psychiatry, had not
observed signs of psychosis. The judges found no strong arguments against acquiring a
second opinion and mid-January 2012 the court appointed psychiatrists Agnar Aspaas and
Terje Tørrisen for a second evaluation and report.
However, this unusual move was not well-received by the main parties neither by
the defence nor the prosecution. The General Attorney and the prosecutors had already stated
that the psychiatric report was ‘very thorough’ and had apparently committed themselves
strongly to its conclusions. They saw no point in having a second psychiatric assessment.
Even if it came to the opposite conclusion, the first assessment had already established
sufficient doubt about Breivik’s mental health state that the court would have no other option
than to convict him to compulsory mental health care. Doubt should be to the benefit of the
defendant, and compulsory psychiatric treatment was considered lighter than a prison
sentence and preventive detention. Breivik’s attorneys appealed the decision for a second
psychiatric evaluation all the way to the High Court, not knowing then that the result of the
report would ultimately become one of their best arguments. The defence lost in the High
Court on February 15, and two days later Lippestad stated that they had left the insanity plea
strategy, and instead went for a criminally responsible plea.
By the end of February the
new psychiatrist team initiated a three-week long compulsory observation period of Breivik,
who at this point had decided to cooperate, probably realising he had nothing to lose.
Another thing to note from this period is that the police team interviewing Breivik
noted a clear shift from early March onwards in the way that he spoke about Knights Templar
and the compendium.
He adjusted the time when he started planning the attacks, he
changed parts of the terminology he used and he played down the importance of the Knights
Templar during police interrogation.
In their report delivered 10 April, less than a week before the trial began, Aspaas and
Tørrisen concluded that Breivik was sane at the time of the attacks, in other words, that he
was not suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and that he was not psychotic during the
attacks. They found him to have a dissocial personality disorder and a narcissistic personality
disorder, and concluded that Breivik was fit for a prison sentence.
This report was far better
‘Breiviks strategi: oppskrift på fiasko’, Aftenposten nettavis (31 Mei 2012),
Retrieved 2 June 2013.
‘Jon Even Andersen (NTB): Derfor oppnevnte retten nye terrorsakkyndige’, Aftenposten (16 March 2013).
‘Sindre Granly Meldalen og Tomm W. Christiansen -Det er ting vi angrer på’, Dagbladet (17 June 2012).
‘Breivik endret forklaring’, Hamar Arbeiderblad (31 May 2012), http://www.h- Retrieved 11 March
‘Slik har han endret forklaring’, Aftenposten (2 May 2012),
han-endret-sin-forklaring-6818661.html Retrieved 5 May 2013.
Both psychiatric evaluation reports of Anders Behring Breivik can be found at
received in the media and among most experts.
Breivik was said to be ‘satisfied with the
findings and had counted on it’.
He felt, however, compelled to attune his previous
‘pompous’ posture to these new findings, as became clear during the first day of his stage
Following the debate after the first report and the appointment of the second
psychiatric evaluation team, the General Attorney and the prosecution could have adjusted
their strategy. The General Attorney stated they would be open and dynamic in the process
toward the trial, but stuck to the original path of an insanity plea anyway, partly in order to
avoid a delay of the trial.
Critics claimed that the prosecution had put too much stock in the
first psychiatric assessment and the delusion plea that it could not afford to change its
Breivik’s performance in court
Breivik started his first day in court by making a form of fascist style salute.
He also took
one hour for his opening statement (twice the time allocated to him), very much annoying the
lawyers representing the victims. The talk was, however, not as offensive and far-fetched with
regard to its content as what he had presented earlier for the police and in the remand hearings
during the first months after his arrest. For example, he mentioned the Knights Templar
network just once during the opening statement, clearly trying to play down its importance.
Later during the trial he continued to downplay the elite impression of the network, although
continuing to claim that it existed.
In general, Breivik tried hard to appear less fanatic and ‘pompous’ – that was the word
he used frequently in the trial than he did earlier in the process, following a strategy that
aimed to avoid being found deluded and sent to the ‘madhouse’. He explained why he
previously had used a more pompous style:
If, let us say, you represent a group and want to communicate in a way that will
optimise the propaganda effect, you communicate in a pompous way. Rather than
telling about four sweaty guys in a cellar, you use other ways to describe it.
He openly admitted that what he now said in court was influenced by the fact that there were
four psychiatrists present in the courtroom. He wanted to avoid being sent to a madhouse.
He argued that the prosecution wanted to make him look ridiculous, and he got irritated when
titles and uniforms of the KT-network were brought up again and again, as he wanted to play
down this dimension.
He also admitted that he initially did want to use the uniform in court,
However, the Commission for Forensic Psychiatry, which had accepted the first, controversial report without
any comments, in spite of its obvious shortcomings, had a number of critical questions regarding the second
report. The Commission came under heavy fire for its role in the process. It was claimed that it was unable to
accept the second report because it had put too much stock in accepting the first report, which had come to
the opposite conclusion.
‘Lippestad: - Slik Breivik trodde’, Nettavisen (10 April 2012) Retrieved 28 March 2013.
Kamp om Breiviks psyke’, Dagsavisen. NTB (10 April 2012),
breiviks-psyke/. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
‘En type høyreekstrem hilsen’, Dagbladet (6 February 2012),
Retrieved 16 March 2013.
NTB word for word-transcripts from trial, p.21.
VG’s minutes from court, 17 April 2012.
NTB word for word-transcripts from trial, p.349.
NTB word for word-transcripts from trial, p.349.
but that he realised it would be unwise due to the psychiatric assessment.
In general,
Breivik stayed calm during the entire trial, also during the only sequence with some drama,
when an Iraqi present in the courtroom threw a shoe at him, hitting his assistant defence
One of the few times he did seem disturbed was when victims and their families
stood and marched out of the courtroom when he started giving his closing statement 22
Another rare occasion was early in the trial, when he was moved to tears as his
YouTube film was played. According to judge Arntzen, his ability to keep focus actually did
prove to be beneficial for him, because seeing his performance and hearing him speak and
argue gave the court valuable information as to whether he was psychotic or not.
As described, the psychiatric evaluation and the fear of a delusion verdict were the
main constraining factors for Breivik during the trial process; they are the most likely
explanation for the change of behaviour compared to his posture during autumn 2011. We
must also remember that Breivik had media access during trial and that he could adjust to that
as well.
In court, psychiatric experts testified and debated their findings. One of them,
Professor Ulrik Fredrik Malt, told the court that Breivik did not appear to suffer from the kind
of delusions or hallucinations that indicate schizophrenia, therewith refuting the conclusions
of the first report. However, he agreed that Breivik could not be treated as a criminal
responsible for his actions. He said that he believed that ‘[Breivik] is suffering from
something else than just political extremism’.
Hearing this testimony, Breivik was clearly
insulted. But at the end of the day when he was given the opportunity to comment he said that
he ‘want to congratulate Malt with a well-executed character assassination. At first I thought
it was offensive, but eventually it was just ridiculous’.
As with others who tried to validate
his insanity, Breivik responded by questioning their professionalism.
Breivik lost much time and energy fighting the insanity charges, which inhibited his
real aim, to present himself as a right-wing vanguard in ‘the battle against Islamism and its
defenders’. He felt compelled to upgrade his status as a political activist by calling upon
different far-right activists as witnesses, like Tore Tveldt (Vigrid Group), Arne Tumyr (Stop
Islamisation of Norway) and anti-Islamist blogger Fjordman. With these witnesses, the
defence tried to demonstrate that Breivik was no lone lunatic, but indeed represented a
broader current of political extremism.
It had become apparent that Breivik´s strategy would consist of two intertwined parts.
As described above, the psychiatric inquiry forced him to focus on convincing people of his
sanity. But his primary aim was to convince as many people to consider the plausibility of the
ideas he had described in his manifest, i.e. to convince others of the dangers of invading
enemy Muslims and the ruling of spineless multiculturalists.
In other words, to be viewed
as sane by the judges but also by the general audience was an important precondition for
using his trial as a stage.
NTB word for word-transcripts from trial, p.351.
‘Mann kastet sko og ropte mot Breivik’, Aftenposten (11 May 2012),
6826502.html#.UVc3djkdhDU. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
Breivik trial closes, victims’ relatives walk out’, Reuters (22 June 2012), Retrieved 10 March
‘Jon Even Andersen (NTB): Derfor oppnevnte retten nye terrorsakkyndige’, Aftenposten, (16 March 2013).
22nd of July Court Transcripts, ‘Transcript 2012-08-06, Oslo District Court (8 June 2012),
Sociologist Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen, interviewed by ITNs Sam Datta-Paulin.
How exactly did he try to use the stage and reach his audience? A central part of this
strategy consisted of repeatedly proclaiming the significance of the (future) number of
adherents to his ideology. This tied in with his manifesto, in which he had constructed an
audience, real or imaginative, to whom he could address his message. For example, Breivik
frequently used the collective ‘we’ in his manifesto and during his trial to refer to those who
shared his right-wing ideas.
At the same time, he portrayed people he disagreed with as
ignorant or weak. Breivik’s narrative offered people an opportunity to belong to an alliance,
which will eventually win the ‘European culture war’. In his final statement in court, Breivik
once again appealed to his imaginary audience of potential supporters and sympathisers. With
his statement of regret cut short halfway through by an irritated judge Arntzen he wanted
to apologise to ‘all militant nationalists in Norway and in Europe for not having killed more
During the trial, Breivik regularly illustrated this point as well. His statements on, and
direct salutations to, the Knights Templar are perhaps the most prominent examples. This
secret and exclusive organisation, with members-cells all across Europe, would stand by
Breivik’s side and will be responsible for future attacks. In the letter to Zschäpe he wrote for
If it is clear that you are indeed a militant nationalist that chose to contribute
this way than you will be regarded in a lot of people’s eyes as a courageous
nationalist resistance hero who did everything you could and sacrificed
everything to stop multiculturalism and the Islamisation of Germany. […] We
are both among the first rain drops which indicate that there is a massive
purifying storm approaching Europe. And within the next decades more and
more Europeans will acknowledge our sacrifice. Western European prisons
will be filled by anti-communist/anti-Islamic resistance fighters like us. The
treacherous cultural Marxists and multiculturalists will eventually lose this
European culture-war. In fact, they have already lost, they don’t know it yet,
because multiculturalism is in fact a self-defeating ideology. We are both
martyrs for the conservative revolution and you should be extremely proud of
your sacrifice and efforts. Know your sacrifice is being celebrated in northern-
Europe by tens of thousands of cultural conservatives.
Breivik presented himself over and over again as the Caucasian hero who came to the rescue
on behalf of a suppressed European people. He defended his attacks as the only way to
prevent an Islamisation of the continent, saying he would do it all again, because he was
‘trying to prevent civil war in Norway in the future. I and others in Europe are convinced we
can avert a major civil war. If we wait another 20-30 years, ethnic Europeans will be in the
This idea of belonging to a specific in-group’ might function as a pull-factor for adjusting ones (social)
identity. See for instance M. Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2004); T. Bjorgo, and J. Horgan, (Eds.), Leaving Terrorism Behind: Disengagement
from political violence (New York: Routledge, 2009); J. Horgan, Psychological factors related to
disengaging from terrorism: Some preliminary assumptions and assertions, in: C. Benard, (Ed.), A Future
for the Young: Options for helping Middle Eastern youth escape the trap of radicalization (Santa Monica,
CA: RAND Corporation, 2005),
22nd of July Court Transcripts, ‘Transcript 2012-08-24’, Oslo District Court (24 August 2012),
‘“Martyrs for the Conservative Revolution: Mass-Murderer Breivik writes neo-Nazi Zschäpe’, Der Spiegel
(19 November 2012),
terrorist-suspect-beate-zschaepe-a-868042.html. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
minority’. In Breivik’s opinion, his actions were ‘based on goodness, not evil’
and he was
acting ‘out of necessity’.
Breivik acknowledged that the 22 July attacks were barbarian
but only of limited scale compared to the acts of a future civil war as caused by Europe's
inevitable Islamisation. He even went as far as describing his deeds as ‘gruesome’. He had
‘acted against human nature’, and he apologised for innocent casualties, referring to those
without political connections. He also said that he understood the loss inflicted on the victims’
families, as he had lost his friends and family after the attack as well.
At the same time,
however, he did not show any emotion or remorse. During the first days of the trial, Breivik
described his attacks as ‘the most spectacular sophisticated political acts in Europe since the
Second World War’.
Another example of Breivik’s lack of anxiety in court was when he commented on the
possible future verdict on the first day of the trial. In his opinion his trial could have only two
possible outcomes: death penalty or acquittal. A maximum sentence of twenty-one years
would be ‘pathetic’. The only exception to this posture of aloofness was his breakdown during
the projection of the propaganda video he had made himself. When asked why he wept, he
responded: ‘Because I think that my country is dying and that my ethnic group is dying’.
Although the victims’ and survivors’ lawyers received many messages of protest from
people who felt Breivik’s statements were extremely offensive and despite the fact that the
judges tried to limit his rampages, Breivik demanded to continue in order to explain his
motives. His legal counsel Geir Lippestad acknowledged the victims’ suffering, and
understood that they did not want the court to turn into a theatre show. However, the defence
team did not inhibit their defendant in voicing his claims, saying ‘he has a right as a defendant
in Norwegian law to give a statement, and also a human right’.
In his final statement Breivik again re-iterated that he did not recognise the court
because of its ‘mandate from political parties that support multiculturalism’.
He added that:
By discarding my allegations of the principle of necessity and sentencing a
representative of the Norwegian resistance movement you have sided with the
multicultural majority in parliament and therefore you also expressed support
for the multiculturalist ideology. Since I do not recognise this court I cannot
legitimize the Oslo district court by accepting this sentence. In my view this
sentence and judgement is illegitimate and at the same time I cannot appeal
against the judgement because by appealing I would legitimize the court.
Based on his statements and behaviour in court, Breivik’s performative strategy was to rebel
against the Norwegian judicial system in which he was forced to participate by means of his
own trial. It seems clear therefore that delegitimising this system had become an integral part
of his right-wing extremist communications.
22nd of July Court Transcript, ‘Transcript 2012-06-22’, Oslo District Court (22 June 2012), [Note: in
the transcript ‘necessity’ is wrongly translated as ‘self-defence’].
22nd of July Court Transcript, Transcript 2012-04-23’, Oslo District Court (23 April 2012),
22nd of July Court Transcripts, ‘Transcript 2012-04-17’, Oslo District Court (17 April 2012),
‘Lippestad: Vurderer å be om utsettelse av saken’, NRK (16 April 2012),
dag/forsvarerne-vil-kanskje-utsette-1.8076216. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
22nd of July Court Transcripts. Oslo District Court (2012).
22nd of July Court Transcript, Transcript 2012-08-24, Oslo District Court (24 August 2012),
Breivik’s strategy: a ‘self-evaluation’
After describing some features of the trial, it is interesting to have a look at what Breivik
wrote in his compendium about trial proceedings and defence attorneys. There he states that a
trial is an excellent opportunity and a well-suited arena the Justiciar Knight can use to
propagate his case.
As such, he clearly sees the court as a theatre, where the defendant is
playing the key role with a unique opportunity to present his ideology and views to a wider
audience. In the compendium, Breivik is quite detailed about how the defendant should
behave and present demands to the court, presenting the audience with a given scenario, and
in so doing prepare both enemies and the public for what lies ahead, in what he describes as a
not too distant future.
He especially gives a great deal of attention to the opening statement
and the closing statement, and he provides ready-to-use scripts that any ultra-nationalist could
use if arrested.
Breivik also devoted more than two pages to finding the right defence attorney for a trial,
stressing that the defendant should reject any appointed public attorney, and search for a
patriotic-oriented one.
He lists three primary tasks with regard to what to expect from a
well-suited defence attorney;
1. Willingness to facilitate you logistically.
2. Willingness to facilitate you ideologically.
3. Willingness to facilitate you to build a case against the regime.
As described, Breivik’s priority was to find a lawyer who shared his ideas and ideology,
rather than focusing on professional skills. He acknowledges that finding such a lawyer may
be difficult, but emphasised that it is absolutely necessary in order to achieve a proper
This begs the question: did Breivik himself act in accordance with the compendium?
In some ways he did and in some ways he did not. First of all, even after declaring that he did
not recognise the legitimacy of the court in itself, the defendant gave a great deal of attention
to the proceedings, was well prepared for the meetings, following every sequence closely and
making use of his right to comment on statements made by witnesses and expert witnesses.
He used the opening and closing statement rounds as expected, but the content was not the
same as in the compendium, but rather adjusted to his situation. As such, the static and
descriptive nature of the manuscripts in the compendium did not work, due to the dynamics of
the trial. It is like wars, they tend to take on a life of their own when first set in motion.
Likewise, he did not foresee that he would have to concentrate on avoiding a delusion verdict,
and this constrained him significantly in court.
Secondly, Breivik also recommended in his compendium to appoint a defence attorney
who endorses the defendant’s political agenda. Indeed, Lippestad performed his duty as a
defence attorney in a highly professional manner, actually receiving a good deal of public
credit for his way of handling the difficult task, even from the surviving victims and family
members. Very much so because he did not defend the actions of the perpetrator, but focussed
on his legal rights in a clinical fashion, in order to uphold the values of a society governed by
law and justice precisely the values Breivik tried to defeat. In other words, Breivik did not at
all get the collaborating type of lawyer he described and recommended in his compendium.
The only thing that really corresponded is that he could chose his own lawyer, but the irony
Breivik, ‘2083’, p.1107.
Ibid, pp.1107-1114.
Ibid, p.1115.
Ibid, pp.1115-1116.
was, as mentioned earlier, that Lippestad turned out to be an active member of the Labour
Party. Another irony: one of Breivik’s first demands when he was arrested at Utøya was that
torture and the death penalty should be reinstated in Norway. A couple of months after he
started serving his prison term, he complained about the prison conditions, among other things
that he had to write with a soft rubber pen. According to him, this pen he was given was ‘an
almost indescribable manifestation of sadism’, and that it represented a breach of the
European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention against Torture.
10.5.3 The Verdict
As for the court itself, presiding judge Arntzen kept the leash tight from day one, signalling
authority over the courtroom and the parties. She continued to do so the duration of the trial
and succeeded in keeping an independent and objective position, not afraid of correcting or
asking critical questions to anyone of the involved parties, including correcting the media. Her
firm and focused performance probably contributed to the public acceptance of the trial
process and final verdict and sentencing as being just and credible.
The court found Breivik guilty for the attacks carried out on 22 July. He was
sentenced to 21 years preventive detention in August 2012, with 10 years minimum. In
practice this sentence of 21 years may mean that Breivik will be in prison for the rest of his
life. His sentence will be reviewed for the first time after ten years but could last his life out
(forvaring: preventive detention) as he is deemed to be a danger to society, in which case a
sentence can be extended every five years. There is no limit to the number of times the five-
year timeframe can be extended. In general, detention can be prolonged by an unlimited
number of additional five-year periods as long as the court finds that the convicted still
constitutes a danger to society. In the end, Anders Behring Breivik got the result he hoped for,
as his status as a political militant was confirmed, and he avoided the ‘madhouse’ he feared. It
was not an option for him to appeal, since he would then risk a different outcome in a
subsequent trial. Accordingly, he had to forego a second chance to hold an ideological show-
off in court.
10.6 Outside the Courtroom and the Aftermath of the Trial
De Graaf has argued that terrorism trials offer an exceptional opportunity for understanding
and countering terrorism, because they are the only place where all actors involved meet:
terrorists, state representatives, the judiciary, the audience, surviving victims, terrorist
sympathisers, etc.
Furthermore, the media will analyse and broadcast their performances.
As a nexus of terrorism violence, law enforcement and public opinion, terrorism trials thus
offer an ideal opportunity to showcase justice in progress and demonstrate how the laws of the
country deal with terrorist suspects. A trial provides a theatre, inviting various actors to play
out their roles and convince and mobilise the public to advance their narratives of (in)justice.
The judicial objectives refer to the classic principles of a fair trial: doing justice and
upholding the rule of law, as laid down in the two penal goals of 1) rehabilitation, 2)
‘Breiviks egne ord om livet i fengsel: Sadisme satt i system’, VG (09 November 2012), Retrieved 5 March 2013.
B. de Graaf, Terrorists on Trial: A performative perspective, ICCT Expert Meeting Report (2011),
and the three informal goals of a trial: 3) truth finding, 4) re-establishing
stability in society and restoring the democratic rule of law and 5) providing in the need for
closure. There are many reasons for this research to focus on the ‘performative effect’ –
particularly the various performances of the actors in the courtroom on public opinion.
Breivik’s trial provided him with a global stage and was a media spectacle which involved
and mobilised many Norwegians as well as spectators abroad.
It would therefore be relevant to not only map the strategies of different actors, but
also investigate how these strategies affected coping mechanisms in society. Coping is
defined as the thoughts and behaviour that people use to manage the internal and external
demands of situations that are appraised as stressful.
Coping is a complex,
multidimensional process that is sensitive to the environment and its demands and resources,
to personality dispositions that influence the appraisal of stress and resources for coping, and
the relationship between these. A trial is thought to assist coping mechanisms as it is a means
of truth finding; it also helps to re-establish stability and helps those involved to come to
terms with the perpetrated legal offence. It is thus justified to explore how a trial like this
affects coping mechanisms within the public domain. The Breivik trial is an excellent
example to test this hypothesis as it was clear from the start what happened, how it happened
and who the perpetrator was. For research purposes, the public space was narrowed down to
the participants present in and around the courtroom in Oslo during the days before and after
the trial.
First, for this chapter, quantitative research was undertaken by distributing surveys
inquiring about people’s opinions and attitudes towards the Breivik trial. The surveys were
distributed on the streets of Oslo during two days, 23 and 25 August 2012, the day before and
the day after the final verdict in the trial.
The total number of respondents was 246 of which
124 (50 percent) were female and 91 (37 percent) were male (the remaining 13 percent did
not specify gender). The participants’ average age was 30 and they were approached at
several locations: in a central square in Oslo, at a subway-station, at the central train station,
in a mall, in a park and on the campus of Oslo University. Qualitative interviews with parties
directly involved in the trial, such as victims, expert witnesses, members of the 22nd of July
which was installed to review and learn from the attacks, and journalists,
were also conducted. We have selected these respondents based upon their expertise either
from our own networks or via a snowball-sampling-methodology. During these interviews, a
number of general questions relating to the strategies in court and the effects of the trial on
society were asked.
Those surveyed were asked to indicate whether they were present in Utøya or Oslo or
whether they knew friends/family who were present (most involved) or whether they found
out about the attacks through the media (least involved) to establish their level of
C. Kelk, Studieboek materiel strafrecht (Deventer: Kluwer, 2005), p.21.
R.S. Lazarus and S. Folkman, Stress, Appraisal, and Coping (New York: Springer, 1984), p.150.
Hence the generalizability of the results is limited to the respondents in our sample. It concerns mainly
inhabitants from Oslo; our sample was on average younger, poorer and from more diverse ethnic
backgrounds than the Norwegian population as a whole. Data from: ,
Oslo-people/r_19786/ and our survey.
The trial of Anders Behring Breivik started on 16 April and lasted until 22 June 2012. The trial was named
after the day of Breivik’s attacks: the 22nd of July trial. The final verdict was read on 24 August 2012 in Oslo
district court. Our survey-research was carried out the day before and the day after the final verdict, while
interviews were conducted the week before the final verdict.
Independent commission mandated to review and learn from the terrorist attacks on the Government Complex
in Oslo and on Utøya Island on 22 July 2011. The commission submitted its final report to Norwegian Prime
Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Monday, 13 August 2012. See for more information:
involvement. The results indicate how intensely penetrating the Breivik attacks were for the
respondents in our sample. But also from a macro-perspective: a country with a relatively
small population (4.7 million) had to deal with so many people getting killed (77) or injured
(242) in the attacks. The responses indicate that many people in our sample knew someone in
person who was present and/or suffered from the attacks.
10.6.1 Perceptions regarding the Prosecution’s Strategy
The respondents in our sample did not appear to accept the prosecution’s insanity plea
strategy: a large part of the respondents disagreed with the idea that Breivik should receive
psychiatric treatment instead of a prison sentence (see table 10.1).
I believe Breivik is sane.
24 percent
42 percent
I believe Breivik is accountable.
60 percent
30 percent
I agree with the prosecution’s strategy.
16 percent
59 percent
Table 10.1: Opinion on Breivik’s sanity / accountability
In an interview with journalist Ben McPherson, editor of the newspaper The Foreigner,
prosecutor Bejer Engh responded to this public sentiment by saying that she understood that
people were having strong feelings about how to react to Breivik, but that the prosecution’s
strategy needed to relate to the Norwegian legal framework: ‘Otherwise he’s won. And you
know, he wanted to change Norwegian society and I’m sure he’d feel it was a victory if we
gave up our principles. Right at the moment we’re being tested can we hold on to our
She also suggested that even though many Norwegians disagreed with the
prosecutors about how Breivik should be punished, that should not influence their work
saying, ‘then we could just as easily have put it to a public vote’.
Therefore, selling this
idea to the public had become a part of the strategy. Bejer Engh, one of the prosecutors,
argued: ‘We have murderers who have been sentenced to a psychiatric facility who will
probably never get out again’.
The prosecutors, however, also emphasised that they were
committed to human rights and that serious doubt as to a defendant’s mental health should not
lead to a prison sentence. The prosecution thus stuck to their argument that Breivik was a
delusional lone operator and should be convicted accordingly.
The prosecutors felt that they had sufficiently responded to the victims’ needs and the
gravity of the attacks by positioning the victims’ stories centrally in their arguments.
Although 59 percent of the respondents did not agree with the prosecutors final argument (the
insanity plea), an impressive 74 percent of the participants surveyed indicated they felt the
general prosecutors functioned well.
In short, when relating the prosecution’s strategy back to the goals of a fair trial, it can
be argued that the prosecution adhered to the goal of truth finding, spending much time
reconstructing Breivik’s crimes. Concerning the goal of retribution, an interesting tension
emerged: in a way, trying to have Breivik declared insane and sent to a mental institution
would have been ‘the ultimate humiliation’, as Breivik himself admitted. Thus, the insanity
strategy could have served the goal of retribution in the sense that Breivik would have
B. McPherson, ‘Prosecuting Breivik’, The Foreigner (7 July 2012),
received exactly what he did not want. However, Norwegian society strongly objected to the
insanity claim and most people felt Breivik knew exactly what he was doing when he carried
out his acts and therefore deserved a life-long sentence, carrying full responsibility for his
actions. As for the goal of restoring social peace, the prosecution seemed not to consider this
given the widespread objection in Norwegian society to the insanity plea strategy. However,
regarding the goal of upholding the democratic rule of law, the prosecution’s adherence to fair
trial standards were shared and respected by the majority of the respondents in our sample. In
the end, the collective feeling was that despite the prosecution’s strategy, the trial itself and
the way in which Breivik was treated, was the ultimate counter-narrative to Breivik’s acts of
10.6.2 Perception of Breivik’s Strategy
The survey asked participants whether they thought the media paid too much, enough or too
little attention to Breivik during the trial. The results (see table 10.2) indicate that most people
in this research felt that the media paid enough attention to Breivik’s perspective.
Nonetheless, more than a third of respondents felt they paid too much attention to his
The media paid…
Too little attention
0 percent
Little attention
2 percent
Enough attention
32 percent
Much attention
35 percent
Too much attention
31 percent
Table 10.2: Opinion on the media attention of Breivik’s perspective in the media
One specific response to Breivik’s performative strategy was the reaction of the public in the
square in front of the court building. During the trial, many people gathered to sing the
Rainbow Song, a song that Breivik had referred to in court as an example of how Norwegian
students were being brainwashed by Marxist propaganda.
Displays of collective mourning
and the direct response by the general public to Breivik's statements during the trial also
showed the involvement of the Norwegian public in the trial. This could be interpreted as
society trying to send a message to the government, Breivik and his possible (future)
followers. It seemed to stress, in line with the argument put forth by Prime Minister Jens
Stoltenberg, the need for a democratic response to the attacks. Similarly, the survey indicated
that respondents wanted a structured and inclusive debate about the Norwegian democratic
system and refuted the exclusion of certain extremist groups from society or from public
debate. Breivik’s aim to use the trial to further his own extremist motives was recognised by
the public present in and outside the courtroom. Throughout the trial, the amount of time
Breivik received to make his own statements was a contested issue in the Norwegian media.
The discussion centred on the possible effect: it could both inspire and put off potential
followers or adherents to right-wing extremism. The copycat effect of Breivik’s performative
strategy became apparent in the aftermath of the trial when a series of events were in one way
or another connected to Breivik. First of all, Breivik’s manifesto was translated into many
Breivik Trial Court Transcript, Transcript 2012-04-20, Oslo District Court (20 April 2012),
languages, including Russian, Dutch and German. Also, thirteen months after Breivik’s
attacks, a ‘Russian Breivik’ was arrested in Moscow for shooting and killing six colleagues
and releasing a hate manifesto online.
Only a week later, a 29-year-old man in the Czech
Republic was charged over a Breivik-style plot, using the name Breivik online and planning a
large attack with explosives.
In November of that same year, Polish authorities arrested a
radical nationalist who was planning to blow up the Polish parliament building and who
linked himself to Breivik.
Finally, Breivik received many love letters,
as well as correspondence and drawings
from children.
In a letter he wrote to Tania, a woman who had written him, he says: ‘A lot
of people around the world have expressed their support for me, in summary, I have received
over 250 letters, most of which are bills, LOL [laughing out loud, social media speak]. About
60% of the letters is positive, 10% is from people who want me to find Jesus, and 30% from
those who hate me’.
However, overall it seems Breivik’s propaganda has led to different outcomes. Major
newspapers rejected his articles, and several anti-Islamic ideologues he admired, such as
Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen (known as Fjordman), refused his proposals for cooperation.
Also, rather than inspiring a new generation of followers or sparking a far-right-extremist
revolution in Europe, his public performance during the trial appears to have had the opposite
effect. Although European white nationalist movements, of which Breivik represents an
extreme fringe, have been on the rise during recent years, the popular backlash against
Breivik and his ideology has put them on the defensive. Far-right movements such as the
English Defence League denied links to Breivik and dismissed any alleged ideological
connections or overlap.
When far-right parties held a mass rally in Denmark in April 2012,
opposing protesters actually outnumbered them.
Finally, the trial was viewed by many as not sending Breivik’s message, but instead,
effectively demonstrating the quality of the Norwegian system of criminal justice to the
world. Professor Thomas Mathiesen of Oslo University was quoted saying that ‘the
Norwegian system is not about revenge, but sober, dignified treatment’ of even the worst
A. Lobzina, ‘“Russia’s Breivik” suspect charged with mass murder’, The Moscow News (11 August 2012),
Czech police charge man over “Breivik-style” plot’, BBC (18 August 2012),
Poland arrests bomb plotter linked to Norway’s Breivik’, Reuters (20 November 2012),
Breivik gets love letters from 16-year old girls’, The Local (18 June 2012),
Children write letters to Breivik’, The Nordic Page (18 December 2012),
The Breivik Archive, ‘Anders Behring Breivik Letter 15-01-12 to Tania’ (15 January 2012),
J.A. Ravndal, ‘A Post-Trial of Anders Behring Breivik’ (29 October 2012),
M. Fisher, ‘What America can learn from Norway’s Anders Breivik trial’, The Atlantic (18 April 2012),
European far-right groups seek to build anti-Islamic network, meet protests’, Reuters (2 April 2012),
AP, ‘Anders Breivik trial displays Norway’s formal legal system’, Washington Post (17 April 2012),
In short, Breivik’s performative strategy was immediately recognised as such and
vehemently rejected by society at large. The singing of the Rainbow Song and national
discussion in the media regarding the amount of attention on Breivik during the trial
underscored and defended the importance the Norwegian people ascribe to the democratic
system and the rule of law. Both respect for a fair trial, as a cornerstone to a functioning
democratic system, and for an inclusive debate demonstrated the Norwegian public’s
prioritisation of the judicial goals of stabilisation and upholding the democratic rule of law,
much more than a plain yearning for retribution or general prevention.
10.6.3 The Breivik Trial as a Coping Mechanism?
How has the trial helped the Norwegian people present in and outside the courtroom in coping
with the grief and stress caused by Breivik’s attacks?
Our questionnaire asked which goals of a fair trial people find important, and whether
they feel these were attained in the Breivik trial. The hypothesis is that if an important goal
has been attained by the trial that this then may have helped respondents to cope better. The
goals listed in the survey were more detailed than the five classical (formal and informal)
goals of criminal justice with additional specifications added:
1. Revenge;
2. Preventing the suspect from committing another crime (specific prevention);
3. Preventing others from committing such a crime (general prevention);
4. Truth-finding;
5. Enabling all the involved parties to present their perspectives;
6. Restore stability in society;
7. Reaffirm the rule of law and democratic values; and
8. Provide closure.
The outcomes are presented in table 10.3.
8 percent
4 percent
75 percent
56 percent
Symbolic function
56 percent
22 percent
Truth finding
49 percent
39 percent
Present perspectives
40 percent
49 percent
Restore stability
43 percent
29 percent
Democratic values
61 percent
57 percent
Provide closure
56 percent
44 percent
Table 10.3: Judicial goals: important and attained
One interesting result is the very small number of eighteen participants (8 percent) who
viewed revenge as an important goal in a fair trial. Even though revenge, or retribution, is one
of the classical goals upon which criminal justice in the Western world is based, it appears
that for most of the participants in this research, this judicial goal was not that important.
Laila Bokhari, member of the 22nd of July Commission
that investigated the Breivik attacks
Independent commission mandated to review and learn from the terrorist attacks on the Government Complex
in Oslo and on Utøya Island on 22 July 2011. The commission submitted its final report to Norwegian Prime
and the government’s performance, commented upon this lack of a perceived need for
revenge in Norwegian society:
If you look at the wording in court from the victims, it is not about him
[Breivik] or about revenge. In a sense, this is not about Breivik himself.
People do not want him to have a role in society. The word revenge has very
seldom come out. So retribution in this trial is not so much about revenge, but
more about putting back what is right and wrong and focussing on how can
we prevent something like this from happening again in the future. And that
is also part, I think, of the coping mechanism: looking forward, and not
looking back.
Specific prevention (preventing Breivik from committing another crime) and democratic
values (restoring the rule of law and democratic values) were viewed as the most important
goals of a fair trial. The latter was also confirmed by many of the interviewees. In general, the
trial itself was viewed as society’s answer to Breivik’s (undemocratic) principles and
worldview. Most participants (57 percent) felt that the goal of upholding democratic values
through the trial had been achieved. The trial ended with a verdict that declared Breivik sane
and legally responsible for his acts. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison but with a
‘preventive detention’ clause allowing for his time in jail to be extended as long as he is
deemed a threat to society.
Regarding general prevention, the trial also served an important purpose. On a (inter-)
national policy level, the developments and the concerns relating to ‘lone-wolf’ terrorists like
Breivik revealed the need for serious scrutiny of national security strategies. The 22nd of July
Commission had already concluded before the end of the trial that ‘[a]ll in all, July 22
revealed serious shortfalls in society’s emergency preparedness and ability to avert threats [...]
The challenges turned out to be ascribable to leadership and communication to a far greater
extent than to the lack of response personnel’.
The idea that (right-wing) lone wolf terrorism posed a new serious threat led to an
increased emphasis, both inside and outside Norway, on communication in times of crisis, the
monitoring of right-wing extremists, but also on the policies that relate to the purchasing and
possessing of certain accessories that could be used for terrorist attacks. Janne Kristiansen,
former head of the Police Security Service Norway’s domestic intelligence branch – said
that Breivik represented a new paradigm. ‘A lone wolf who has been very intent on staying
under the radar of the security services by leading a lawful life’, adding that the unconnected
terrorist is ‘one of their biggest worries’.
In the United Kingdom, public figures like Home
Secretary Theresa May and one of the founders of the Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and
Post-Fascist Studies at Teesside University, Matthew Feldman, highlighted the growing threat
of a Breivik-style attack in Britain. May stated that there had been an ‘increased focus on
Right-wing groups in the last year or so, particularly since the Breivik incident in Norway.
[...] It’s still the case that we’re likely to see a lone actor on the basis of Right-wing
Feldman concluded that someone like Anders Breivik will be on the radar
‘sooner or later’.
Minister Jens Stoltenberg on 13 August 2012. See for more information:
Interview with Laila Bokhari, member of the 22 July Kommisjonen, Oslo, 23 August 2012.
Balazs Koranyi, ‘Norway could have prevented Breivik massacre, says commission’, Reuters (13 August
W. Boston, ‘Norway Attacks: The worrying rise of the lone-wolf terrorist’, Time (28 July 2011),,8599,2085658,00.html.
R.J. Ford Rojas, Risk of lone wolf” terrorist attack growing’, The Daily Telegraph (14 January 13),
However, the most important goal the trial appeared to serve in the eyes of the
respondents something corroborated by reporting in the media was the goal of closure,
closely connected to the trial as a symbol for the defence of the Norwegian democratic
system. One of the interviewees, Laila Bokhari, said:
There has been a lot of discussion in the media whether Breivik’s trial was
actually preventing or inspiring others and about the role the media has played.
What words did they use to describe him, what pictures did they show, etc. In a
way, a lot of people argued that just by hearing his words, he would actually fall
from his platform because everyone could see for themselves that his statements
do not make sense. At the same time, there has been a rising awareness that we
as citizens need to be engaged in that discussion, in the media, in political
parties, in youth groups, to counter his principles. For example: he used the
children’s song, the Rainbow Song, to show his disgust with multiculturalism
and what was our reaction? Everyone met up in the square and sang that song.
Maybe that is a crazy thing for people to do but I think it is also part of our
coping mechanism and saying: ok, we have given him his platform but at the
same time, that demands us to be active citizens and respond to his views.
So, the trial did produce closure, but did not end the debate. Some open questions as to the
quality of the Norwegian approach to right-wing extremism and terrorism remained.
First of all, Tore Bjørgo, pointed at Breivik’s growing status of hero within right-wing
extremists groups, especially if he is allowed to communicate his ideas by writing books and
corresponding with like-minded extremists from his prison cell. For example, this was
illustrated by the praise Breivik received during a neo-Nazi march in Germany
and at
several right-wing extremist festivals.
Breivik indeed continued to communicate from his
cell. Various letters sent from his prison cell to sympathisers have been published
and in
February 2013 he filed a complaint over the prison conditions, which he said were akin to
‘aggravated torture’ – prolonged isolation, limited time outside his cell and lack of movement
From a performative perspective this could be explained as an attempt to fuel
support from other right-wing extremists for his case.
Secondly, on a (inter-)national policy level, the developments and the concerns about
lone wolf terrorists like Breivik revealed the need for serious scrutiny of national security
strategies. In the short run, justice minister Knut Storberget and chief of security services
(PST) Janne Kristiansen, both in charge at the time, were forced to resign. In the longer run,
the trial, its ensuing discussions and conclusions lead to an increased emphasis, both inside
and outside Norway, on effective crisis communications, the monitoring of right-wing
extremists, but also on the policies that relate to the purchasing and possessing of certain
materials and substances that can be used for preparing terrorist attacks. One example is the
European regulation which obliges citizens to obtain a permit for purchasing materials like
Interview with Laila Bokhari, member of the 22 July Kommisjonen, Oslo, 23 August 2012.
‘Breivik is een held voor extreem rechts’, De Morgen (14 January 2013).
BNP chief’s Hitler salute to Breivik heroine’, The Sun (4 August 2011),
Letters are available online:
‘Breivik anmelder Ila fengsel og Grete Faremo’, VG (31 January 2013),
fertiliser and nail polish remover that could be used for making explosives.
The risk of
right-wing extremism, or other brand of lone wolf terrorism, was placed higher on the
political agenda but at the same time many feared that the outcome of this renewed political
interest could have a major impact on their privacy and personal freedoms.
10.7 Conclusion
This chapter analysed how the Breivik trial was used by the parties involved to further their
performative strategies. All in all, Breivik and his defence team achieved only partial success.
The defendant avoided being sent for compulsory mental health treatment and managed to
regain his position as a militant activist (terrorist). To some extent he was also able to use the
courtroom as a stage, but in a more limited way than he initially thought would be possible.
Breivik also missed the opportunity for a second trial show, as he then again would bear the
risk of being sentenced to compulsory mental health treatment. It illustrates that the static
strategy regarding trials and defence procedures prepared in Breivik’s compendium did not
foresee the dynamics of a terrorist trial.
The prosecution apparently put too much stock in the first psychiatric report, and did
not adjust its strategy significantly in the months before or during the trial. The prosecution’s
firm stance did not lead to a conviction in accordance with their primary view, but at the same
time the prosecutors did acknowledge in their closing statement the difficult character of the
case and that there were numerous complicating factors to take into consideration. They
claimed they were in serious doubt about his sanity and this doubt necessitated that they had
to go for an insanity verdict. Regarding forensic psychiatry, the court clearly put more trust in
the second report. An extensive debate on the subject ensued both inside and outside of the
professional circles of psychiatry and psychology.
In our survey, we also asked how these strategies relate to classical judicial goals, how
this relationship was perceived within Norwegian society and how the trial helped society in
coming to terms with what had happened on 22 July. It can be concluded that the trial did
indeed influence the coping mechanisms of our respondents in a positive way and that most
viewed the trial as part of their answer to Breivik’s acts, perceiving the trial as a counter-
narrative to Breivik’s story. Overall, the trial was viewed as an example of a quality
performance of justice and as a trial that focussed on the democratic values of Norwegian
society contrary to Breivik’s values. One survey respondent summarised this in the
following words: ‘Don’t let one terrorist take our rights’.
Norwegians largely supported the
prosecution’s strategy, with the major proviso that they did not want Breivik to be declared
The prosecution’s strategy to try and have Breivik declared insane and be sent to a
mental institution provoked a variety of reactions in Norwegian society and unveiled a tension
between the prosecution’s strategy and the goal of retribution. As Breivik himself had said,
having him declared insane would have been ‘the ultimate humiliation’, and therefore that
strategy could have served the goal of retribution in the sense that Breivik would have
received exactly what he did not want. However, despite the prosecution’s strategy, the
collective feeling was that the trial itself was fair, as was the way in which Breivik was treated
this being the ultimate answer to Breivik’s acts. In spite of their diverging opinions, the
‘Vergunning nodig voor grondstof explosief’, ANP (20 november 2012).
L. van der Heide, S. Wanmaker, D. Weggemans and B. de Graaf, ‘The 22nd of July Trial reaches its final
stage’, ICCT Commentaries (12 September 2012),
prosecution’s adherence to fair trial standards was respected by the majority of the
respondents of this research. Norway’s open and respectful attitude was reflected in the
respondents’ views on the importance of judicial goals: prevention and democratic goals were
seen as the most important objectives of the trial, while rehabilitation was the least important
goal for the respondents. The reaction of media around the world to the trial and in particular
to the prosecutor’s handshake with Breivik showed that Norway might be a unique country in
this respect.
Breivik’s strategies received widespread attention in the media: both the defence’s
initial plea for insanity, to escape a lengthy prison sentence, and his strategy to escape the
insanity label in order to be perceived as a rational role model for right-wing extremists were
covered by news media. Many (international) commentators questioned whether Breivik
exerted too much communicative power during the trial. A substantial number of our
respondents (37 percent) agreed that Breivik received too much attention both in terms of
the amount of time he was given to present his perspective in court and the attention he
received from the media. On the other hand, many respondents felt that this attention did not
elevate his status, but in fact undermined his position in the sense that anyone could now see
that his statements were incoherent and nonsensical, as Laila Bokhari has argued. These
results again show that Norwegians trusted that Breivik’s opinions would be overruled by
moderate opinions and behaviour; leading terrorism researcher Tore Bjørgo to say in an
overall assessment of the trial that ‘we don’t think that the trial has or will produce copy-cats,
but we hope that it will instead produce copy-cat trials’.
The influence of a criminal trial on coping is a highly under-researched topic in
general, but the influence of a terrorism trial on coping with the initial attack is a virtually un-
explored issue. Our survey provides some preliminary evidence for a positive relationship
between a fair trial with respect to classical judicial standards and coping mechanisms in
society. When focussing on individuals, a mild positive influence was found: 32 percent of
the interviewees responded that the trial helped them to better cope with their feelings. This
might constitute an underestimation because people are not aware of a direct positive
influence of the trial on their feelings, whilst a negative impact would probably have caused a
much higher negative result. It can be concluded, therefore, that a fair and transparent trial
with enough opportunities for all actors to demonstrate their viewpoints is a necessary
condition for strong coping mechanisms in society. However, more research is needed to
verify these preliminary findings.
All in all, the Breivik trial could be considered a ‘performance of justice’, in the
broadest, not just formal, but also social sense of the word. As Bokhari points out:
It helped us in the process of understanding what really happened. It put things in
perspective. In one way the trial gives Norwegian society a chance to show its values
as a response to Breivik and in another way it gives people a chance to understand,
gain insight and deal with what happened. In a way we have been forced to ask and
answer the question of guilt.
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... [73] Breivik's strategy was derailed, however. [74] The trial was handled in such a way that he was unable to use it as a platform for his views. Breivik did not manage to follow his own instructions for turning his trial into a propaganda platform either. ...
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