Norway massacre survivors brace for killer's trial

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When Per Anders Langeroed heard about the bomb explosion in downtown Oslo, he wrote reassuringly to his Facebook friends that he was "safe on Utoya."

Moments later, even greater mayhem was unleashed on the island youth camp outside the Norwegian capital. Scores of mostly teenage victims were slaughtered as Langeroed and others fled into a frigid lake to escape the rampaging gunman.

Those who survived Norway's worst peacetime massacre on July 22 are bracing for the horror of Utoya island to return when the trial of confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik begins on Monday.

"I dread the trial," Langeroed, a 26-year-old master's student, told The Associated Press. "It will come back. Stories. Questions. Could I have saved others? Could I have done more? I survived by pure chance."

Breivik, a 33-year-old Norwegian, faces terrorism and premeditated murder charges for the bombing in Oslo's government district and the shooting spree at the governing Labor Party's annual youth camp on Utoya. Eight people died in Oslo and 69 were killed on the island, in a lake some 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the Norwegian capital.

Breivik surrendered to a SWAT team on the island and confessed to both attacks, but rejects criminal guilt. The attacks, he claims, were necessary to protect Norway from being overrun by Muslims. The targets: members of Norway's left-leaning political establishment, which Breivik accused of destroying his country by allowing immigration from Muslim countries. Official statistics show about 2 percent of Norway's population of 5 million are now members of Islamic religious societies.

Breivik, who portrays himself as a modern-day crusader, is not likely to show any remorse during the trial. Even his defense lawyers say his only regret is that the death toll wasn't higher.

"It is difficult to understand, but I am telling you this to prepare people for his testimony," said Geir Lippestad, who heads Breivik's defense team.

The survivors and close relatives of those who died can take off from work or school to attend the trial, which is scheduled for 10 weeks. Some will testify as witnesses.

Langeroed will be in Berlin for the first two weeks, to get away from it all and to focus on his studies. In fact, he doesn't know if he will attend the trial at all.

Others feel the need to face the killer in court, even though they know it will be uncomfortable.

"I do not know how I will react, I do not think you can prepare for it," said Stine Renate Haaheim, a 27-year-old Labor Party lawmaker who escaped the massacre by swimming from the island.

"The trial will surely be gruesome," she told AP in Parliament's canteen. "But I think it is something we have to go through to reconcile ourselves with what has happened."

She said she recently sought help from a psychologist to deal with the trauma and feels better now. But the killer's name still upsets her — she calls him "that man." She doesn't want to give him the attention he seems to crave, and said the huge media focus during the trial will be frustrating.

One huge question mark is if the trial will provide any answers. How did a quiet boy from Oslo turned into a mass killer? What fueled his hatred of Muslims? Why cut down dozens of innocent teens who had nothing to do with government immigration policies?

Haaheim pauses and looks out the window.

"But I don't think it will give any meaning to what has happened," she said.

Why a Norwegian would inflict such violence on his own people is unfathomable to most in this oil-rich nation, known for mediating international conflicts and for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize.

Breivik was found insane in one examination that recommended committing him to compulsory psychiatric care, while another assessment found him mentally competent to be sent to prison. It's up to the judges in Oslo's district court to decide which diagnosis they find most believable.

The maximum prison term is 21 years, but the sentence can be prolonged for inmates who are deemed a danger to society under a seldom-used provision in Norwegian law. Many legal experts believe that could be evoked in this case.

Hajin Barzingi, a 19-year-old Utoya survivor, said she will attend the trial to support her sister, who will testify as a witness. She's also curious to hear what witnesses who knew Breivik have to say.

"Do they share some of his views, did they notice something special about him?" she asked.

Langeroed said he escaped Breivik twice on that rainy evening on Utoya, where nearly 600 members of Labor Party youth groups from around Norway were meeting for their traditional summer retreat.

He jumped out of a window of a crowded cafe building when the gunman, disguised as a police officer, entered with guns ablaze. Later, hiding behind a rock by the shore, he saw Breivik gunning down victims in the water and on land.

The gunman then pointed his weapon at Langeroed.

"I heard a shot as I dived into the water and swam as far as I could," the student said.

When he came to the surface to breathe, Langeroed saw Breivik aiming at him anew. He dived again, heard the crack of another shot, but somehow escaped that bullet as well.

Once out of range, he joined other survivors who grasped onto a buoy on the chilly lake. Langeroed was wearing only boxer shorts, his skin blue with cold, when a German tourist picked them up in a boat.

Langeroed said the attacks have strengthened his political commitment.

"Suddenly it has become important to fight for democracy," he says.

But he has also changed in other ways. By reflex, he always looks for the emergency exit when he enters a building. He tries not think about Breivik — but he really wants him to stay in prison for the rest of his life.

"It would be an unimaginable burden to meet him on the subway 20 years from now," Langeroed said.


Karl Ritter reported from Stockholm.