Norway gunman asks to confront massacre survivors

Associated Press Modified: May 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm •  Published: May 9, 2012
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OSLO, Norway (AP) — Survivors of a youth camp shooting massacre that left 69 people dead in Norway testified Wednesday about their panicked attempts to hide during the rampage, as the court turned down confessed gunman Anders Behring Breivik's request to question them on the stand.

Tonje Brenna, a leading member of the Labor Party's youth wing, described how she sought shelter behind rocks on the shore of Utoya island on July 22 as her colleagues were shot around her.

"I smelled gunpowder, it stung my eyes," Brenna, 24, told the Oslo court.

Breivik, who has admitted to the July 22 massacre and a bombing in Oslo that killed eight people earlier that day, briefly interrupted the proceedings with a request to pose questions to the witnesses. When the trial opened four weeks ago, the self-styled anti-Muslim crusader pleaded innocent to terror charges — even though he admitted to the facts of the case — saying he didn't recognize the authority of the court.

On Wednesday, he said he would consider dropping his defense in exchange for a chance to question those giving testimony. When the judge rejected his request, he complained that the decision was "ideologically" based.

The 33-year-old Norwegian has showed little sign of emotion during the trial, even when describing how he shot his victims multiple times in the head to make sure he killed them. More than half of them were teenagers.

Breivik's mental state is a key question in the trial. If found guilty and sane, he would face 21 years in prison, although he can be held longer if deemed a danger to society. If declared insane, he would be committed to compulsory psychiatric care.

In other testimony Wednesday, a local resident described going out on a boat to pluck terrified youths from the water as they tried to swim away from the island.

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