Anders Behring Breivik shed tears as he went on trial today for killing 77 people — but not for his victims. The emotional display came when prosecutors showed his anti-Muslim video.

Dressed in a dark suit and sporting a thin beard, the right-wing fanatic admitted to the killings but defended the July 22 massacre as an act of "self-defence" in his professed civil war, and sat stone-faced as prosecutors described how he killed each of his victims.

But he was gripped by emotion when they showed a video warning of a Muslim takeover of Europe and laden with crusader imagery that he posted on YouTube before the attacks. Suddenly, the self-styled "resistance" fighter's eyes welled up. He cringed his face and wiped away tears with trembling hands.

"Nobody believes that he cried out of pity for the victims," said Mette Yvonne Larsen, a lawyer representing survivors and victim's families in the court proceedings.

Breivik showed no signs of remorse on the first day of a trial that is expected to last 10 weeks. After being uncuffed, he extended his right arm in a clenched-fist salute. He refused to stand when the judges entered the room.

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Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, saying he was acting in self-defence. (Heiko Junge/Associated Press)

"I don't recognize Norwegian courts because you get your mandate from the Norwegian political parties who support multiculturalism," Breivik said the first time he addressed the court.

The 33-year-old Norwegian also announced he doesn't recognize the authority of Judge Wenche Elisabeth Arntzen because he said she is friends with the sister of former Norwegian Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Eight people were killed in Breivik's bombing of Oslo's government district and 69 were slain in his shooting massacre at the left-leaning Labor Party's youth camp on Utoya island outside the capital.

'I admit to acts, not criminal guilt'

Breivik has said the attacks were necessary to protect Norway from being taken over by Muslims and that he deliberately targeted the governing Labor Party, which he claims has betrayed Norway with liberal immigration policies.

"I admit to the acts, but not criminal guilt," he told the court, insisting he had acted in self-defence.

While Norway has a legal principle of preventive self-defence, that doesn't apply to Breivik's case, said Jarl Borgvin Doerre, a legal expert who has written a book on the concept. "It is obvious that it has nothing to do with preventive self-defence," Doerre told The Associated Press.

Mental state is key issue

The key issue to be resolved during the trial is Breivik's mental state, which will decide whether he is sent to prison or into psychiatric care. Anxious to prove he is not insane, Breivik will call right-wing extremists and radical Islamists to testify during the trial, to show that others also share his view of clashing civilizations.

One mental examination found him legally insane, while another said he wasn't sick enough to be committed to psychiatric care instead of prison. If deemed mentally competent, Breivik would face a maximum prison sentence of 21 years or an alternate custody arrangement under which the sentence is prolonged for as long as an inmate is deemed a danger to society.

Breivik did not appear to have any family or supporters in court. His parents, who are divorced, did not attend the hearing. His father, Jens Breivik, answered when The Associated Press called his home in France on Monday.

"I don't want to comment on anything," he said before hanging up.

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Armed policemen patrol the vicinity of the Oslo courthouse where Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is on trial for terrorism and murder charges. (Berit Roald/Scanpix Norway/Associated Press)

Anne Marita Milde, a psychology professor at the University of Bergen, said Breivik's tears during the video show he's not completely "flattened" emotionally — even though they didn't come when you might have expected them.

"He may in many areas be emotionally flattened, that he doesn't display emotion and so on, but it's not all or nothing here — there are facets within behaviour," she said.

Utoya survivor Bjorn Magnus Jacobsen told reporters he was perplexed by Breivik's reaction.

"It might be that he is crying because of pride or because he thinks the video is so brilliant," said Jacobsen. "But it might also be he feels that he's lost his battle, but I don't really know that."

The tears came during a portion of the video that glorified armed resistance against Islam in Europe. Asked what prompted Breivik's emotions, defence lawyer Geir Lippestad said they stemmed from his conviction that he had to carry out the attacks "because he wants to save Europe from an ongoing war."

Audio of phone call during shooting played in court

After a lunch break, Breivik was again expressionless as he watched prosecutors present surveillance footage of the Oslo explosion. The blast ripped through the high-rise building that housed government headquarters, blowing out windows and filling surrounding streets with smoke and debris.

He didn't flinch as prosecutors played a three-minute recording of a young woman's frantic phone call to police from Utoya.

"I'm pretty sure that there are many injured," Renate Taarnes, 22, said with panic in her voice as more than a dozen shots in close succession could be heard.

Taarnes escaped the massacre unharmed and is scheduled to testify later in the trial.

'There's always this shadow behind me'

Another survivor, Bjoern Ihler, escaped the attack by jumping into the water and swimming away to avoid Breivik's sightline.

He was in the courtroom Monday and told the CBC's Mark Kelley he planned to follow the case closely as a way of dealing with what happened.

"There's always this shadow behind me. I don't know how to explain it. But somewhere in my mind at all times, there's things connected to this case going on. I don't let it rule me in any way, but it is always there ... It has changed my life, and I think it's important to keep track of that change of my life," he said.

Many survivors and families of victims are worried that Breivik will use the trial to promote his extremist political ideology. In a manifesto he published online before the attacks, Breivik wrote that "patriotic resistance fighters" should use trials "as a platform to further our cause."

Ihler told CBC News he hoped that Breivik would be "judged as fairly as possible."

"I hope we manage to stay true to the ideals we had before this terrorism that happened," he said.

'I hope we manage to stay true to the ideals we had before this terrorism that happened.'—Bjoern Ihler, who survived the attack on Utoya Island

Breivik wants to be judged as a sane person and will call radical Islamists, and extremists on the right and left to testify to support "his perception that there is a war going on in Europe," Lippestad told the court. Lippestad said Breivik wants to read a new document he's written at the start of his testimony on Tuesday.

Norway's NRK television was broadcasting parts of the trial live but was not allowed to show Breivik's testimony.

After blowing up parts of the government building and shooting dozens to death on Utoya island, Breivik surrendered to police one hour and 20 minutes after he arrived on Utoya. The police response to his terror spree was slowed by a series of mishaps, including the lack of an operating police helicopter and the breakdown of an overloaded boat carrying a commando team to the island.