Lawyer: Massacre defense is to protect democracy

AP News
Posted: Jul 26, 2011 11:28 AM
Lawyer: Massacre defense is to protect democracy

The defense lawyer for the man who confessed to the Norway massacre said he agreed to take the case because he felt the tragedy underscored the need to safeguard democratic traditions like the right to defense counsel.

Geir Lippestad said at his first news conference that he considered the case for 10 or 12 hours before finally agreeing to take it.

Later, Lippestad told The Associated Press that he did not know why his client chose him. He once worked in the same building as Breivik and Norwegian media have reported that he has defended neo-Nazis.

"My first reaction was of course that this is too difficult, but when I sat down with my family and friends and colleagues, we talked it through and we said that today it's time to think about democracy," Lippestad said.

He added: "Someone has to do this job, the police has to do their job and the judges do their job." He was speaking in English.

"My job is not to be his friend," he said. "He will get a fair trial, that's my job to secure."

Breivik has confessed to last week's bombing in the capital and a rampage at a Labor Party retreat for young people, but he has pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges he faces, claiming he acted to save Europe from what he says is Muslim colonization.

Asked at the press conference if Breivik was giving him instructions for his defense, Lippestad said he wasn't and that he wouldn't take such instructions. He confirmed he's a member of the Labor Party but doesn't know whether the suspect is aware. Breivik has ranted against the party, accusing liberals of being ashamed of their culture and betraying Norway in their pursuit of a multiculturalist society.

Breivik made his first appearance in court on Monday to answer the terrorism charges against him.

While 21 years is the stiffest sentence a Norwegian judge can hand down, a special sentence can be given to prisoners deemed a danger to society, who are locked up for 20-year sentences that can be renewed indefinitely.