The court found Anders Behring Breivik sane, and sentenced him to custody for 21 years. In a way they tried to square the circle.
There was public clamor for him to be found sane and accountable for his actions, while at the same time he showed erratic behavior in court that lent credence to the first psychiatric report, that found him insane.
Confinement for 21 years was the prison-version of compulsory psychiatric treatment: it is also the only way that he can be kept behind bars for the rest of his life, within the present law.
But in order to reach such a verdict the court has accepted a set of premises that are both judicially and politically contentious.
The court rationalizes Breivik’s ideology, whilst the first psychiatrists found them to be expressions of his extreme fantasies of violence: this explains how Breivik could walk around calmly and murder young people, and he repeated in court that he was sorry he didn’t kill more.
The other factor the court had to disregard was the fact that the investigation has found no trace of Knights Templar, the new order that Breivik alleged was European in scale.
The verdict accepts Breiviks ideology as rational, and then goes on to say that he is part of an antimuslim reaction in the West, and mentions explicitly 9/11 and the cartoon-crisis in Denmark as eliciting such a reaction. A part of this reaction has spawned conspiracy theories, and one of them is the Eurabia-theory, the belief that European elites are working on a secret plan to islamize Europe. Thus the court links Bat Ye’0r to Anders Behring Breivik. It is a dubious logic.
The verdict mentions that several witnesses have testified to the existence of such a milieu. The courts chairwoman, Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, mentioned Lars Gule, Øyvind Strømmen, Matthias Gardell, Brynjar Lia, and other witnesses who have testified about the growth and existence of such milieus. It is also a dubious premise.
The court disregards what is an obvious fact: Gule, Strømmen and Gardell har hardline activists who regard the right in general as political adversaries. 22/7 was for them a pretext to smear all political opponents with the accusation of complicity. It is astonishing and worrying that the court has swallowed this bait without reservation.
Whilst much of Norwegian media are triumphant that the court found Breivik accountable, and calls it a victory for a common sense of justice, there is reason for concern: the verdict might not be the closure one hopes for, but a source of continuous political strife. The verdict might be a political instrument to clobber the right, but as long as one does not draw a distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism, broad swathes of the population might feel under suspicion. That is a worrisome conclusion of Norway’s historic trial.