Norway's Anders Behring Breivik in open court hearing

Journalist Anne Leer said Anders Breivik had no problems looking straight at the survivors of the massacre

The man who confessed to killing 77 people in Norway in July has made his first public appearance in court.

As in previous hearings, Anders Behring Breivik refused to plead guilty - this time in front of his victims' families, survivors of the attacks and reporters.

The 32-year-old right-wing extremist has been in custody since the 22 July attacks in Oslo and at a youth camp on the island of Utoeya.

The date of his trial has been set for 16 April, pending psychiatric tests.

The court extended his period in custody for a further 12 weeks but the judge agreed to gradually relax the conditions of his solitary confinement.

Announcing the trial date, Oslo district court clerk Geir Engebretsen said it depended on whether ongoing psychiatric tests concluded he was fit for trial.

'Calm and professional'

Around 120 people were allowed into the Oslo courtroom, while hundreds more watched the proceedings via video links in overflow rooms.

Journalist Anne Leer who was in the courtroom said the atmosphere had been tense and strange.

Breivik wore a dark suit and appeared very calm and professional. He looked over at those present as he entered the courtroom, she said.

"I am a military commander in the Norwegian resistance movement," he said, and began to question the legitimacy of the court before the judge interrupted him.

As in previous hearings, he admitted carrying out the attacks - in which 151 people were also injured - but denied the terror charges.

'Nervous and weakened'

He has said in earlier hearings that the massacre was "necessary" to save Norway and Europe from Muslims and multiculturalism.

One of those who witnessed his shooting spree on Utoeya was 20-year-old Bjoern Ihle from Oslo.

"He aimed at me on Utoeya island. That was the last time I saw him," he told Reuters news agency after the hearing.

"It is good to see he was powerless, which he was not then... He looked nervous and weakened."

The police had requested that Breivik address his remand hearings via a video link from prison, but this was rejected by Norway's supreme court on Friday, allowing his court appearances to be held in public.

Breivik has admitted that, disguised as a police officer, he planted a car bomb that exploded close to government offices, killing eight people.

He then drove to the island of Utoeya where the ruling Labour Party's youth movement was hosting a summer camp.

In a shooting spree that lasted more than an hour, he killed 69 people - mostly teenagers.

The attacks have traumatised Norway, which is seen as one of the most politically stable and tolerant countries in Europe.

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