LONDON -- Final arguments in the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the self-confessed Norwegian killer of 77 people, ended Friday, and the question of his sanity was in the hands of a five-judge panel expected to rule in August.
Breivik has admitted that he carried out last July's bombing of a government building in Oslo that killed eight people and later the same day shot 69 people to death at an annual gathering of the Norwegian Labor Party's youth group on the nearby island of Utoya.
He faces a maximum allowable sentence of 21 years in prison, which can be extended indefinitely if he is considered a danger to society, or commitment to psychiatric care until deemed safe for release.
Breivik claims he acted out of political idealism to defend ethnic Norway from multiculturalism and Islam and should be judged as a sane human being.
In his closing argument, Sky News reported, his attorney, Geir Lippestad, asked the court for the “mildest possible sentence.” Lippestad said his client acted out of political convictions in the interests of the country, as shown by his targets of the offices of Norway’s center-left coalition government and the Labor Party youth camp.
Given the horrific nature of the bizarre attacks in what Lippestad termed “little, safe Norway,” Breivik’s actions triggered conflicting psychiatric reports.
In the final days of the 10-week trial, the court heard from several psychiatrists, some of whom argued he was rational and coherent.
Breivik himself told the court in April he acted to defend Norway from multiculturalism and "de-Christianization" and believed he should be either executed or acquitted. He also described with chilling lucidity and in detail the preparation and execution of last summer’s massacre.
Several survivors of the July 22 attack and victims’ families gave emotional evidence during the trial. They also hold conflicting opinions as to whether he should be judged insane and criminally irresponsible or a cold-blooded rational murderer.
As Breivik himself gave his final speech, courtroom reports said, the bereaved families walked out.
Chief Judge Wenche Elisabeth Arntzen has said the panel will announce its ruling on Aug. 24, the Associated Press reported.
-- Janet Stobart
Photo: Anders Behring Breivik looks across the courtroom in Oslo on Friday as his defense team begins the last session of his 10-week-long trial. Credit: Heiko Junge / European Pressphoto Agency