Norway killer claims mantle of resistance leader
OSLO, Norway -- The anti-Muslim extremist who confessed to a bombing and shooting massacre that killed 77 people in Norway tried to declare himself a resistance leader Monday at his first public court hearing but was quickly cut off by the judge.
Anders Behring Breivik was escorted by guards into an Oslo court room packed with dozens of reporters and spectators, including survivors of his rampage at a youth camp near the capital who were seeing him in person for the first time since the July 22 attack.
"I am a military commander in the Norwegian resistance movement," Breivik said before the judge interrupted him and told him to stick to the issue at hand -- his further detention.
The court extended his custody 12 more weeks until Feb. 6, but decided to gradually lift the restrictions on his media access, visitors and mail. Breivik is being held pending his trial on terror charges.
If found guilty, he could be sentenced to 21 years in prison. An alternative custody arrangement -- if he is still considered a danger to the public -- could keep him behind bars indefinitely.
At the end of Monday's hearing, the 32-year-old Norwegian asked Judge Torkjel Nesheim if he could address survivors and victims' relatives but was turned down.
Previous court hearings in the case have been closed to the public. At the end of Monday's hearing, the judge lifted a ban on reporting the proceedings.
Investigators say Breivik set off a fertilizer bomb outside government headquarters on July 22, killing eight people, before heading to an island retreat, where youth sections of Norway's governing Labor Party were holding their annual summer camp.
Disguised as a police officer, he opened fire on scores of panicked youths, shooting some as they fled into the lake. Sixty-nine people were killed on Utoya island before Breivik surrendered to a police SWAT team.
The carnage shocked Norway and the world, and still haunts a nation that sees itself as peaceful and tolerant.
Tim Viskjer, who survived the shooting spree on Utoya, watched Breivik's hearing on a video screen in another room in the court house.
"I thought he seemed cold and inhuman," Viskjer told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. "It was uncomfortable, but for me I moved on a little bit after seeing and hearing the suspect."
Like he did in previous closed hearings, Breivik on Monday confessed to the attacks but pleaded not guilty to preliminary terror charges. Breivik has denied criminal guilt, saying he was in a state of war to protect Europe from being taken over by Muslim immigrants.
He described his pretrial detention at the Ila prison in Oslo as "irrational torture."
His defense lawyer, Geir Lippestad, told reporters after the hearing that Breivik doesn't recognize the authority of the court and demands to be released from prison.
The judge said there were sufficient grounds to keep Breivik in custody considering the gravity of the crime and the risk that he would interfere with the investigation if released.
Breivik has been held in isolation since his arrest, without access to media, mail or visitors. The judge said the media ban should be lifted Dec. 12 and the other restrictions on Jan. 9.
At least one more custody hearing is expected before Breivik is formally indicted.
Oslo district court spokesman Geir Engebretsen said the trial is scheduled to start on April 16 and is expected to last for about 10 weeks. A new court room with 200 seats will be built for the trial, Engebretsen said.
An online manifesto attributed to Breivik sheds light on his choice of targets. In it, he lays out a blueprint for a multi-phase revolution, targeting left-leaning political elites he accuses of destroying their own societies by admitting large numbers of immigrants, especially from Muslim countries.
His actions have been widely condemned, including by the anti-Islamic bloggers and groups that he cited prolifically in the document.
Investigators say they have found no evidence to support Breivik's claims that he belongs to a network of modern-day crusaders opposed to multiculturalism, and that two other cells are ready to strike. Police prosecutor Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said Breivik most likely plotted and executed the attacks on his own, but said it cannot be ruled out that he had accomplices.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)