Impose life sentence on NZ gunman, urge victims' families

Survivors and relatives speak at sentencing hearing of man behind 2019 mosque attacks

Brenton Tarrant was present yesterday as survivors and relatives of victims of the shootings he carried out last year addressed the court.
Brenton Tarrant was present yesterday as survivors and relatives of victims of the shootings he carried out last year addressed the court.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WELLINGTON • Families of victims gunned down at two New Zealand mosques urged a judge to impose the toughest possible sentence, life without parole, on the gunman as he showed no remorse and appeared to smirk at one survivor during a sentencing hearing yesterday.

Mr Mirwais Waziri, who was wounded during the attack last year at Christchurch's Al Noor mosque, put aside his prepared court statement and addressed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant directly, after seeing that he did not have "any regrets, any shame in his eyes".

"He does not regret anything," said Mr Waziri in the High Court in Christchurch on day two of the sentencing hearing.

"Today you are called a terrorist and you proved to the world that us Muslims are not terrorists. I say to the people of New Zealand that terrorists do not have religion, race and colour," said Mr Waziri, whose words drew applause from the public gallery.

Mr Nathan Smith, originally from Britain and a survivor of the Al Noor mosque shooting, also spoke directly to Tarrant, who sat in grey prison clothes, watched by guards.

"When you get a free minute, which you will have plenty of. Funny, eh? Very funny. Maybe you should try to read the Quran. It's beautiful," Mr Smith said, reacting to Tarrant's apparent smirk.

Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian, is scheduled to be sentenced this week after pleading guilty to 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the shooting rampage last year in the city of Christchurch that he live-streamed on Facebook.

Prosecutors have told the court Tarrant carefully planned the attacks to cause maximum carnage by accumulating high-powered firearms and ammunition, training at rifle clubs and studying mosque layouts.

A murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The judge can impose a life term without parole, a sentence that has never been used in New Zealand.

Ms Farisha Razak said in a recorded message that Tarrant did not deserve any leniency after killing her father, Mr Ashraf Ali, who was visiting New Zealand from Fiji. "You made a game out of people's lives," she said. "You should not even be granted parole - ever."

Mr Zuhair Darwish, who lost his brother Kamel, said Tarrant should receive the harshest possible sentence. "I know in New Zealand law they have removed the death penalty for humans, but unfortunately he's not a human," he said.

INHUMAN

I know in New Zealand law they have removed the death penalty for humans, but unfortunately he's not a human.

MR ZUHAIR DARWISH, whose brother, Kamel, died in the shootings, on Tarrant deserving the harshest possible sentence.


NOT EVEN PAROLE

You made a game out of people's lives. You should not even be granted parole - ever.

MS FARISHA RAZAK, whose father, Mr Ashraf Ali, was killed in the attacks, on Tarrant deserving no leniency.


A TERRORIST

He does not regret anything. Today you are called a terrorist and you proved to the world that us Muslims are not terrorists. I say to the people of New Zealand that terrorists do not have religion, race and colour.

MR MIRWAIS WAZIRI, on Brenton Tarrant, who carried out attacks on two mosques in Christchurch last year. Mr Waziri was wounded in the attack at Al Noor mosque.

 
 

The second day of a multi-day sentencing hearing was dedicated to allowing survivors and family members of victims to address the court, in person and via video.

Tarrant, who is representing himself, will be allowed to speak at some point during the hearing, although Judge Cameron Mander has powers to ensure the High Court is not used as a platform for extremist ideology.

While most of Tarrant's victims were at Al Noor mosque, he killed seven people at the Linwood mosque before being detained en route to a third.

The daughter of a woman killed at the Linwood mosque challenged Tarrant to use his life in prison to consider the beauty of the diversity and freedom he sought to destroy.

Mr Kyron Gosse, nephew of 65-year old victim Linda Armstrong, said the shooter had come to New Zealand as a guest, and used that privilege to destroy a family that had lived here for seven generations.

"Filled with his own racist agenda, this coward hid behind his big powerful guns and shot little old Linda from afar," said Mr Gosse, who added that Tarrant "stole our nation's innocence".

New Zealand had been relatively free from major gun violence until the country's worst mass shooting.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2020, with the headline 'Impose life sentence on NZ gunman, urge victims' families'. Subscribe