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Norway gunman not crazy enough to stay out of jail: experts

02 august 2011, 10:01
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The doorstep of the Norwegian Embassy in Helsinki, during a silent moment in memory of the victims of attacks in Norway by mass killer Anders Behring Breivik. ©AFP
The doorstep of the Norwegian Embassy in Helsinki, during a silent moment in memory of the victims of attacks in Norway by mass killer Anders Behring Breivik. ©AFP
The man who has confessed to the deadly attacks in Norway on July 22 is expected to claim insanity, but experts say his long and detailed planning of the massacre shows he is not crazy and can go to prison, AFP reports.

Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old rightwing extremist, is set to start undergoing psychological evaluation this week.

Two psychiatrists, Synne Serheim and Torgeir Husby, were tasked by an Oslo court to present their opinions by November 1, but the final decision on whether he can be tried for the slaughter of 77 people will be up to the court.

To be found unaccountable for the attacks -- a bombing of government offices in Oslo and a shooting rampage at a youth summer camp -- Behring Breivik must under Norwegian law be diagnosed as suffering from a psychosis, like schizophrenia or severe paranoia.

While his lawyer Geir Lippestad has already suggested he is "insane," psychiatry professor Tor Ketil Larsen stressed that proving a clinical psychosis is not enough to avoid prosecution.

"In addition to having a psychosis you must 'lack the ability to realistically understand your own relationship to reality'," according to article 44 of the Norwegian constitution, the University of Stavanger professor explained in an email to AFP.

This may not apply to the suspect, who wrote a 1,500-page manifesto in perfect English ahead of the attack and appears intelligent and conscious of his actions, some experts say.

But Larsen added there may be a small chance of Behring Breivik avoiding prison as "one might wonder whether he suffers from schizophrenia with systematic delusions and so-called megalomania."

"Approximately four percent of people with schizophrenia actually have a high IQ so it is not impossible for someone with severe schizophrenia to carry out complicated actions such as making a bomb or getting hold of money," he said.

He pointed out "it is however unusual and one could argue that such a systematic planning is not expected for people who are not legally responsible according to article 44."

Randi Rosenqvist, another psychiatry expert, agreed.

Regardless of how crazy the attacks might seem to the general public, "he kept his head too cool to have acted under a psychotic impulse," she told the Dagbladet daily, while stressing that an in-depth evaluation was needed before reaching any clear conclusions.

Several psychiatrists said Behring Breivik had narcissistic and megalomaniac tendencies, apparent from the photographs the suspect posted of himself on the Internet wearing different uniforms and in his manifesto claims that he was on a "mission."

"I think we agree he has a narcissistic personality disorder and he has also very grand views and thoughts about himself," said retired hospital psychiatrist Per Boerre Huseboe, who continues to work as a court expert.

Huseboe said he thought it was "possible" the 32-year-old was psychotic, given his lack of emotion as he for an hour and a half hunted down and shot and killed 69 people -- most of them teenagers -- on Utoeya island near Oslo.

If Behring Breivik is indeed so mentally ill that he cannot be held accountable for his actions, how did his illness go undetected for so long?

According to Larsen, it is possible in theory at least "to live in a society for years with psychosis without being detected for treatment."

And in Behring Breivik's case, "he has been socially isolated for a long time and seems to have little contact with family and few close friends," he said.

Lawyer Lippestad insisted last week that his client lived in "his bubble," with "his own understanding of reality."


By Marc Preel

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