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Even so, some Europeans say their gut reaction is that it’s too much coverage. They have been horrified by images splashed across newspapers of Mr. Breivik making a defiant fisted salute and reports of his bloodcurdling admission of his crimes.

“The trial should have been kept secret or at least behind closed doors, and the court should only issue a statement with the verdict,” said Malgorzata Rogala, 50, a translator in Poland, where courts sometimes limit media coverage in sensitive cases. “It is an insult to the families of the victims and publicity he does not deserve.”

But some legal scholars argue that true openness is essential, if only to prevent conspiracy theories. And public trials are a bedrock of democracy that specialists say must be allowed in most cases.

“The underlying human rights dimension of this is that public trials have a very central place in the consciousness of the community,” said Mike Newton, a law professor at Vanderbilt University. “And so, the presumption should be an open trial unless there is clear evidence that what goes on in the courtroom is just an extension of hostilities.”

Mr. Newton, co-author of “Enemy of the State: The Trial and Execution of Saddam Hussein,” argues that Saddam’s trial is a case where there indeed would have been a good argument for a closed trial because the deposed Iraqi dictator used his testimony - broadcast on Iraqi television - to encourage the ongoing insurgency.

Perhaps ironically, some extremists who carry out horrific attacks to make a political point reject the opportunity to speak out in court.

An example is Timothy McVeigh, who acted out of hatred for the U.S. government when he bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people. Defense attorneys feared that if McVeigh testified, it would open him up to too many questions from prosecutors about his role in the bombing.

McVeigh’s distrust of the government also might have played a role in his refusal to testify, but he later worked with a biographer to tell his side of the story, and he appeared to welcome the attention he got before he was executed in 2001.

“Timothy McVeigh got a lot of mail when he was on death row. Some people were supportive, and he even got marriage proposals,” Columbia’s Ms. Nacos said. “McVeigh died a happy man. He said he accomplished what he wanted.”