Seeking justice in Norway

By Walt Braun

How the Norwegian who has admitted to killing 77 people last summer is ultimately dealt with depends on his level of sanity — and there’s some debate about that.

Two sets of psychiatrists have examined the man, 33-year-old Anders-Behring Breivik. One found him to be a “paranoid psychotic schizophrenic” but capable of standing trial and serving in prison. The other diagnosis was that he was “psychotic” and “delusional.”

He wants to be considered sane out of concern that an insanity determination would undermine his credibility. He expects to impress the court in part by calling right-wing extremists and radical Islamists as witnesses.

He wants the court to believe that he killed those 77 people — eight with a bomb in downtown Oslo before going to a youth camp to shoot to death 69 young people — in service of the Knights Templar. It’s not quite the Knights Templar of the Crusades; his group is a right wing, white supremacist group — “a nationalist military order and military/criminal tribunal.” On Tuesday he bragged that his killing spree was the most “spectacular” attack by a nationalist militant since World War II.

So now, at least, life as a mass murder defendant hasn’t been too bad, even if, according to the London Daily Mail, he’s being held in a former Nazi concentration camp. That placement isn’t to punish him; the isolation offers him protection from other inmates.

Mr. Breivik’s lodgings certainly don’t conjure up images of a concentration camp. He has a three-cell suite with total space exceeding 250 square feet. One cell is for sleeping, one serves as an office and one holds exercise equipment. He has cable TV with 15 channels and a computer (but not Internet access).

Norwegians who want to see him put away forever probably ought to hope he is committed on psychiatric grounds. In that event, he could be kept locked up as long as he is considered a threat to society. And although it isn’t difficult to imagine him trying to sway psychiatrists in a decade or two, it’s hard to believe Norwegians would stand for his release.

If he is convicted as a sane individual, however, his maximum sentence would be 21 years. That comes to less than four months per victim. It’s almost impossible to believe citizens in any country would consider that just punishment.

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