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Breivik Trial: Gunman's Last Day Of Testimony
On the final day of Anders Behring Breivik's testimony, the forgiving nature of Norwegians towards the mass killer continues to shock even local observers.
The subdued atmosphere during the trial of a right-wing fanatic who confessed to slaughtering 77 people on July 22 reflects the country's almost self-punishing efforts to avoid feelings of vengeance against the unrepentant gunman.
"This is the Norwegian way," said Trond Henry Blattmann, whose 17-year-old son was among the 69 people killed in Breivik's shooting massacre on Utoya island.
"We need to carry this out in a dignified manner.
"If people were shouting and screaming this would be a circus and not a trial. We don't want it to be a circus."
Thomas Hylland Eriksen, a professor of social anthropology at Oslo University, said that by treating the trial with "respect and decency," Norwegians are showing defiance against Breivik by standing up for values at the core of their national identity.
When he called Breivik "pudgy" in Norwegian media before the trial, Professor Eriksen said some people took offence.
"I received mail from people who said 'you shouldn't say that about his appearance. He has a mother. We have to treat him with respect.'"
Breivik has admitted setting off a car bomb outside the government headquarters, killing eight, before unleashing a shooting massacre at the governing Labor Party's youth camp on Utoya.
But he denies criminal guilt and rejects the authority of the court, saying it is a vehicle of a "multiculturalist" conspiracy to destroy Norway.
A hushed courtroom heard his macabre account of point-blank executions of shell-shocked youth on Utoya.
The bereaved embraced and sobbed, but they let him finish, holding back the urge to scream out in agony.
"I think everybody has that urge. Even his lawyers have that urge. But will that help us?" asked Mr Blattmann.
"It would just give the terrorist more publicity."
The "dignity" of the process has won praise in Norwegian media.
But between breaks there is sometimes discussion in the corridors about whether Breivik deserves it.
"It puzzles me a little bit," said Thomas Indreboe, a citizen judge who was dismissed from the case for an online comment that Breivik should get the death penalty, which is not applied in Europe, except for in Belarus.
"When you look at other countries, people shout and scream."
Mr Indreboe said he "didn't quite understand" why Breivik got to start his defence by reading an hour-long statement about his extremist political views.
And he stands by his opinion that Breivik deserves to be put to death.
"Because what he did is so serious and horrible. There is no other justice," Mr Indreboe said.
Most Norwegians say it is important that Breivik - like anybody accused of a crime - gets a chance to explain himself in an open court, despite the scale of the attacks.
That approach contrasts with how the US has dealt with the five Guantanamo Bay prisoners charged in the September 11 attacks.
"I think it's important that it is as open as it is," Jannike Berger, a 25-year-old Oslo teacher said of the Breivik trial.
"It is important that he gets to explain himself."
To some foreign observers, Norway's desire to do right has gone overboard, allowing the confessed mass killer just what he wants: a platform to promote his extreme political ideology.
In Germany, particularly sensitive to right-wing extremism, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung criticised how the "the murderer is smiling, grinning gloatingly, clenching his fist" before a world audience.
Others applauded the way Norway has handled the case.
"The trial is a demonstration of the strength of democracy against a violent loner who is so weak he feels the need to take up arms," Dutch daily De Volkskrant said.
Norwegian legal experts say it is crucial that every part of the proceedings is conducted by the book so that Breivik cannot claim he did not get a fair trial.
Many say it is also important that the gruesome details are documented to make sure that Breivik is kept away from society for a long time, maybe for the rest of his life.
"When Behring Breivik at some point in the future goes to court and demands to be released - whether from a prison or from a psychiatric hospital - the judgment will be the most central document in that evaluation," Inge D Hanssen, one of Norway's most experienced crime reporters wrote in newspaper Aftenposten.
Following Norwegian custom, the prosecutors and even lawyers for the bereaved shook Breivik's hand on the first day in court.
Prosecutors maintain a polite tone, even when Breivik is being evasive or challenges the point of their questions.
The general impression in Norway is that all parties in the case, from the prosecutors to the defence lawyers, are doing a good job.