Anders Breivik's trial: the unpalatable story so far

Anders Behring Breivik seen during the fourth day of proceedings in courtroom in Oslo. Photo: AP Photo/Hieko Junge NTB Scanpix

In a courtroom in Central Oslo, Anders Breivik sits in the witness box for the third straight day. His calm demeanour rarely shows any sign of cracking.

It's easy to forget, amid the gentle mental jousting with the prosecution lawyers, that this is the biggest killer in Norwegian peacetime history.

There's no jeering from the public gallery, full though it is of bereaved relatives and survivors from Utoya island. No crowd outside court either.

Uncomfortable as it may be, most Norwegians accept that Breivik must face open justice. There's an extraordinary dignity surrounding all of this.

The job of this court is not to decide the innocence or guilt of the accused, Breivik admits the killings.

The judges must rule whether he's in a fit mental state to serve his time in a mainstream prison.

It's a complex task. Teams of psychiatrists have studied him and disagreed.

His back story is extraordinary, he's written it all down in a 1500 page "manifesto".

It's so detailed it seems almost plausible and some of the dates and places, at least, seem to stack up.

He does, for example, seem to have been in Liberia in 2002. Airline records show that.

He says he went to meet a Serb war criminal in hiding there. An ultra far-right extremist.

The prosecution suggest he went to get involved in the blood diamond business.

Either way, this was a 23 year old Norwegian, who'd rarely travelled, pitching himself into a West African country in the grip of a bloody civil war. An extraordinarily dangerous trip.

Anders Breivik in his 'Knights Templar' uniform Credit: Reuters/Andrew Berwick via

We heard evidence yesterday surrounding the "Knights Templar" group.

A network Breivik claims to have helped establish.

It could all be fantasy, of course, but Breivik has certainly met with individuals in the past who match the descriptions of those present.

Today he's being questioned about past six years of his life. He spent much of that time locked away in a bedroom at his mother's house.

For a full year he spent most of his waking hours playing a "warcraft" game online.

When he tired of that he began work on his manifesto.

Anders Breivik published a manifesto for right-wing extremist group 'Knights Templar' Credit: ITV News Credit: APTN

His magnum opus of twisted politics, detailing when, why and how he would conduct his carefully planned massacre.

He's talking completely dispassionately about plans to slaughter hundreds of innocent civilians.

Would he choose a journalists' conference, or a major public parade?

A Government building or a youth group camping trip? He seems to view it as you or I would choose which shoes to wear today.

Norwegian flag placed amongst floral tributes outside Oslo Cathedral in July 2011 Credit: Reuters

Norway has nine more weeks of this to endure. Slowly the appetite for detail is diminishing.

Breivik no longer occupies every front page and there are empty seats now in the court's public benches.

To most Norwegians, the judges conclusions will be of little consequence.

What does it matter if Breivik is deemed simply criminal or criminally insane.

What people here want is the process to be carried out properly. To reach its conclusion using the system and the values that Breivik was trying to destroy.

Then he can be locked away and this dreadful chapter in the country's history can be closed at last, but not forgotten.

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