Liesbeth van der Heide, 23 August 2012

As the country waits for Friday when the five judges of the Oslo district court pass their final verdict on the mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, we met with one of Norway’s most prominent terrorism experts, Tore Bjørgo, who shared his expectations of Breivik’s verdict with us.

Bjørgo has been involved in the 22nd of July trial from the very beginning, appearing in the media and participating in the debate. On May 31, he testified in the 22nd of July trial, analyzing Breivik’s ideology and acts from a historical, right-extremist perspective.

Bjørgo felt it was his duty to testify against the first psychiatric report. “I read his manifesto and read the interpretations of his behavior and I think they (the first psychiatric team) are wrong. His thoughts and ideology are very different from what most Norwegians think and thus, you could say his ideas are deluded or insane, but compared to many people with right-extremist views (and let’s not forgot, quite some people share his opinions), he is not that deviant.”

Bjørgo told the court that within his mental framework, Breivik acted very rationally and he knew exactly what he was doing.

He also argued Breivik’s main goal had been to ‘communicate his message of cultural war’ and to ‘incite fear and make people lose faith in democracy’ through his acts. According to Bjørgo, he did not succeed in doing so, as Norway rallied after the 22nd of July in the famous rose marches where hundreds of thousands of people vowed their dedication to values of tolerance and democracy.

The main question for the final verdict that keeps Norway occupied these days is whether Breivik will be judged sane or insane. Mette Yvonne Larsen, coordinating counsel for the aggrieved parties – who we are meeting later this week – said earlier that most of her clients do not believe he is insane:  “They were there, they looked him in the eye, they watched him calmly walk around the island shooting.”

The general prosecution said they were in doubt about his sanity, and therefore he should be declared insane out of caution.  They argued that it is better to mistakenly place a sane individual in psychiatric care rather than to place an insane individual in prison.

On his expectations for Friday’s final verdict, Bjørgo expects (60% to 40%) that Breivik will be declared sane and responsible for his acts, leading to a lifelong sentence (21 years plus custody). It remains open if the general prosecution will appeal if this happens. They might want to put an end to this trial just as much as anyone else.

Breivik himself insists his actions were politically motivated and expressed horror at the possibility of ending up in “the madhouse.”  His defense lawyer Geir Lippestad: “The defendant has a radical political project”. “To make his acts something pathological and sick deprives him of his right to take responsibility for his own actions.”

His lawyers have said Breivik would appeal an insanity ruling. Nonetheless, he prepared two speeches, one in case he is declared sane, one in case he is declared insane.