Norwegians value respecting killer's human rights

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Story highlights

  • No sooner were his handcuffs removed than Anders Breivik raised his arm in a salute
  • "I acknowledge the acts but do not plead guilty," he told the court
  • Magnay: He showed no remorse for the killing of 77 in Norway last year
  • Rescuer tells CNN: Breivik was so close to having a bullet between his eyes

Anders Behring Breivik's defense counsel had warned that the self-confessed killer would show no remorse. And that was clear from the start.

No sooner were his handcuffs removed in the than he raised his arm in a fascist-style salute -- a symbol, to quote his wordy manifesto, of "strength, power and defiance against Marxist tyrants."

He announced he did not believe in the authority of the Oslo court. His plea then followed: not guilty, though he acknowledged his acts. He claimed he was acting "from necessity."

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He sat in the court on the first day of the trial Monday wearing a suit, no handcuffs, no restraints, no cage as you might see in other countries -- not even for a mass murderer.

There were smiles and handshakes with the psychiatrists and prosecution at the start. The only barrier was bullet-proof glass between him and the family members, built to protect him rather than the other way around.

Rightwing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in twin attacks in Norway last year arrives in court on April 16, 2012, for his trial .

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This is after all Norway, a country that prides itself on its liberal values. It is a country that has endeavored, as the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg promised shortly after the attacks last year, to respond with "more openness, more democracy and more humanity" to these most inhuman of crimes which left 77 people dead.

    And that is what they are doing -- taking pride in the fact they are a society who will respect Breivik's human rights, even when he showed no respect for the lives of others.

    This is why Geir Lippestad, Breivik's defense lawyer, took on this most difficult of jobs. "I remember I woke up my wife, or she woke up by the same telephone call," he told reporters back in March.  "She's a nurse and she said 'if he had arrived at the hospital with gunshot wounds, the doctors and nurses would have helped him, they'd do their job. You are a lawyer, so don't you want to do your job?'"

    "He was so close to having a bullet between his eyes, the police were so close," said Jorn Overby, who rescued 15 people from the waters off Utoya island on the fateful evening of July 22, 201.

    When I press him about whether he felt that would have been the best thing for him, he replied: "I owe him a punch in the face for firing at me." But his desire for revenge stops there. "He will get the treatment he needs," he said.

    These are people who would prefer never to have to speak Breivik's name again.

    On the Dagbladet website you can now press a button to opt out of news relating to the deadly attacks. There is a sense the people of Norway want to see due process done and then move on. They are a people who believe their system works, which is why no matter how unspeakable his crimes and how hard these months are and will continue to be, Breivik has not been able to break them.