OSLO (Reuters) - The Norwegian anti-Muslim fanatic who killed 77 people in a shooting and bombing rampage last July told a court on Friday he was basically a “nice person” who had trained himself to stifle his emotions so he could carry out the attacks.
Anders Behring Breivik, 33, admits killing eight people with a car bomb at government headquarters in Oslo, then gunning down 69 people, most of them teenagers, at a Labour Party summer camp on Utoeya island.
But he has pleaded not guilty, insisting he was defending the country against waves of Muslim immigration facilitated by the political left.
Breivik said he began consciously training to cut his range of feelings five years before the attacks, when he began to consider using violence to alert Europeans to what he considered the loss of their culture.
“One might say that I was quite normal until 2006 when I started training, when I commenced de-emotionalizing,” he told the court. “And many people will describe me as a nice person or a sympathetic, caring person to friends and anyone.”
“I’ve had a dehumanization strategy towards those I considered valid targets so I could come to the point of killing them,” he said, testifying on the fifth day of his trial.
Breivik’s matter-of-fact manner as he delivers his account of the worst peacetime killings in Norway’s modern history has chilled his countrymen.
His legal team has said that Friday’s testimony would be harrowing, focusing on the systematic slaughter. The presiding judge told people attending the trial they were free to leave the courtroom at any time.
The massacre on Utoeya in particular required mental preparation, he said. On Thursday he explained he had played computers games up to 16 hours per day and used daily meditation to “hammer away” at emotions and embrace his own death.
“It is easy to press a button and detonate a bomb,” he said. “It is very, very difficult to carry out something as barbaric as a firearms operation.”
He had hoped, he said, to kill all 564 people on the island, with special attention to former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, a Labour Party leader known as “mother of the country” who was to be the island that day.
“I had a bayonet on my rifle and I also had a knife,” Breivik recalled. “The plan was to chop her head off while filming it and reading a text, then upload the film (onto the Internet),” he said at Thursday’s session.
He said he never got a chance to buy the advanced mobile telephone required for the film upload and in any case Brundtland left Utoeya several hours before he arrived.
Under questioning about his feelings on Friday, Breivik said he recognized the suffering he had caused but that he remained detached from it. His pre-attack mental training regimen was similar to that which Norwegian soldiers undergo to serve in Afghanistan, he said.
“I would break down mentally if I removed the mental shields,” he said.
Breivik’s trial, set to last 10 weeks, turns on the question of his sanity and thus whether he can be jailed.
Before the trial, one court-appointed team of psychiatrists concluded Breivik was psychotic, while a second found him mentally capable. He has said he should either be executed or acquitted, calling the prospect of a prison sentence “pathetic” and an insanity ruling “worse than death”.
Defense attorney Geir Lippestad told Reuters Breivik’s only goal at the trial is to prove himself sane - and that he feels he is succeeding.
“He thinks he has explained his views satisfactorily, the way he wishes, and he thinks that people understand what he is saying, at least the group he talks to,” Lippestad said.
Additional reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Angus MacSwan