CHRISTCHURCH: The white supremacist who slaughtered 51 worshipers at two New Zealand mosques was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The judge imposed the maximum available sentence on 29-year-old Australian gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the first time the sentence has been imposed in New Zealand.
Judge Cameron Mander said Tarrant’s crimes were so wicked that a lifetime in jail could not begin to atone for them. He said they had caused enormous loss and hurt and stemmed from a warped and malignant ideology.
“Your actions were inhuman,” Mander said. “You deliberately killed a 3-year-old infant as he clung to the leg of his father.”
The March 2019 attacks targeting people praying at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques shocked New Zealand and prompted new laws banning the deadliest types of semiautomatic weapons. They also prompted global changes to social media protocols after the gunman livestreamed his attacks on Facebook.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 13, 2020.Events to mark the death of fifty-one people who were killed and dozens more injured when a gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch March 15, 2019 begin today.
During the four-day sentencing hearing, 90 survivors and family members recounted the horror of the attacks and the trauma they continue to feel.
Some chose to yell at the gunman and give him the finger. Others called him a monster, a coward, a rat. Some sung verses from the Quran or addressed him in Arabic. A few spoke softly to Tarrant, saying they forgave him.
Tarrant had earlier fired his lawyers and told the judge that he didn’t wish to speak at the hearing. A standby lawyer appointed by the court told the judge that Tarrant did not oppose a sentence of life without parole.
Tarrant in March had pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism, reversing his earlier not guilty pleas.
Sara Qasem speaks Thursday about her father, Abdelfattah, who was killed in the New Zealand attacks.