Interview: Anders Breivik is unlike any client attorney Geir Lippestad has ever had – and not just because of the ghastly number of murders he’s accused of. As Lippestad tells Le Monde, Breivik admits to killing 77 mostly young Norwegians and expects to be held accountable.
By Olivier Truc
OSLO – Geir Lippestad will definitely cause some controversy with the approach he plans to take in the upcoming trial of Anders Breivik, Norway’s infamous extreme-right terrorist. For starters, Lippestad, Breivik’s defense attorney, intends to place Mullah Krekar — an Islamist extremist from Kurdish Iraq who has been living in Norway since 1991– on the witness stand.
In an interview with Le Monde, Lippestad outlined his strategy for this exceptional trial, which is scheduled to begin April 16, less than eight months after the double attack on July 22, 2011, in which 77 people died. The majority of the victims were attending a summer camp hosted by the youth wing of the governing Social Democratic party.
This trial has seriously challenged Lippestad’s beliefs as both a support of the Social Democrats and a father of eight children. “I feel I have lost my soul in this case,” he said. “I hope to get it back once all this is over, and that it will be in the same state as before.”
Unlike all of Lippestad’s previous clients, Anders Breivik is not afraid of being found guilty. The possibility of receiving Norway’s maximum penalty (21 years in prison) doesn’t scare him – on the contrary, he wants it.
“This trial is unique, just like the dreadful acts that will be judged,” said Lippestad. “We have to think differently. In the majority of trials, you have a defendant who denies the facts or who says he didn’t intend to do what he did. Here you have someone who recognizes the facts, who takes responsibility for them, and who says he would do the same thing again if the opportunity arose.”
“He doesn’t intend to run away from his responsibilities,” the attorney added. “Quite the opposite, he wants to be found sane and accountable [for his actions].”
Not so paranoid after all
Lippestad initially based his defense on his client’s poor mental health. The first two psychiatrists who examined Breivik declared him insane. But in the end, the lawyer decided to follow his client’s wishes.
The idea that Breivik could be declared not criminally responsible and therefore escape a prison sentence had distressed a large part of the Norwegian population. A second team of psychiatrists has been appointed to evaluate him. They are expected to present their conclusions on April 10. Even if these psychiatrists confirm the first team’s findings, Breivik’s lawyer won’t change anything about his client’s defense.
“It is about showing that his beliefs and way of thinking are common,” said Lippestad. “He is not as unique, as paranoid or schizophrenic as the experts say.”
Lippestad is counting on exposing discrepancies in the expert opinions. “What we see is that there is a gap between what the human sciences say on extremism, and what doctors and psychiatrists know.” In Lippestad’s opinion, many of those who share Breivik’s ideas are classified as extremists, not psychotic. Why, therefore, should he be considered insane?
“We will place people from extremist backgrounds on the witness stand to explain their thought process in order to establish that there are others who, without going as far as to commit the crime, share the same ideology and way of thinking,” said Lippestad. “What we want to show is that we are dealing with an ideology and that he is not the only person to stand behind [those beliefs]; that he is not a psychotic living in a separate world.”
A controversial star witness
By summoning Mullah Krekar to testify –potentially alongside other Islamists– Lippestad wants to show that “Islamists also believe that Europe is the setting for a war of religion and that it is not just a delusion that Breivik has imagined.”
Krekar, real name Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin and often called the “most controversial refugee in Norway,” used to be the leader of Ansar Al-Islam, a small Islamist group from Iraqi Kurdistan that carried out several attacks there. In a book published in Norway in 2004, Krekar admitted to having met Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in about 1990 in the hope of receiving some financial help for his guerrilla group. He left the meeting empty handed.
The lawyer intends to place the Norwegian blogger “Fjordman,” believed to be Breivik’s main inspiration, on the witness stand as well. Breivik cites Fjordman in his 1,500-page manifesto, which he distributed on the Internet just before the attacks.
It is Breivik himself who is orchestrating the strategy defended by Lippestad. While waiting for his trial, he is doing lots of exercise. He also has access to a work cell equipped with a computer. “He doesn’t have Internet access, but he can write, and he is preparing a speech that he intends to read during the trial,” said Lippestad.
The defendant receives letters, watches television and reads the newspapers. “He writes letters to five or six people whom he considers to be his ideological brothers and sisters, in Norway and abroad,” the attorney explained.
“His motivation for carrying out these monstrosities was to distribute his manifesto,” Lippestad added. “Breivik believes that the revolution will start in France or England because, according to him, multiculturalism is very conflicting there.”