Christchurch Terrorist Sentenced to Life Without Parole27 Aug 2020
The terrorist who killed 51 worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch will spend the rest of his life in jail, with no chance of parole.
The 29-year-old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, is the first person to receive such a sentence in the country’s history. The sentence was handed down after four days of hearings during which survivors and the families of victims shared emotional statements about the impact the attack had on their lives.
The sentencing hearing lasted four days
The sentencing hearing for the Christchurch terrorist started on Monday. It came after months of uncertainty on whether the survivors and the families of the victims would face months of gruelling court appearances by the terrorist whose motivation for the attacks was a burning hatred for Muslims.
Following his initial arrest, Tarrant denied any wrongdoing, raising fears of a prolonged court case. However, in a surprise turn in March, he pleaded guilty to all the charges, effectively ensuring that the hearings this week would be the last.
Ahead of the hearings, there were fears that Tarrant would take advantage of his appearance and the media attention to platform his views. He remained quiet throughout, making no comments or voicing opposition even when given the chance. However, he showed no remorse and smirked during some impact statements directed at him. His silence also meant that he did not acknowledge the horror he has inflicted on the victims and their families, nor did he apologise. This was not missed by presiding Justice Cameron Mander who chided the terrorist but appearing neither contrite, nor ashamed.
“The sole purpose of this preparation was to kill as many people at each mosque as efficiently and as systematically as you could,” he added.
Indeed, the enormity of the crime committed was clear in the court, with the lead prosecutor, Mark Zarifeh, explaining that no minimum term of imprisonment is enough “given the gravity of the offending and the devastating loss of life and injury”, especially given how much he prepared for the attacks.
The hearings heard emotional appeals from the survivors and their families
Over the course of the four-day hearings, many survivors and the victims of the families came forward to discuss how the attack impacted their lives. While some were natives of Christchurch, others had travelled from across the country and even other countries. The statements varied between sadness, defiance and anger.
“You are weak…A sheep with a wolf’s jacket on, for only 10 minutes of your whole life,” said Ahad Nabi whose 71-year-old father was murdered in the attack.
Another family member who spoke was Sara Qasem whose father was among the victims. Looking at the terrorist’s eyes, she repeatedly told him to remember her father’s name: Abdelfattah Qasem.
Perhaps one of the saddest and certainly heaviest testimonies came from the father of the three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim who was directly and deliberately killed by the terrorist. “I don’t know you, I never never hurt you, your father, mother, or any of your friends…Rather, I’m the type of person that would help you and your family with anything,” said Aden Dirye. He refused to offer forgiveness. Indeed, the weight of the horrific and senseless killing of the three-year-old Mucaad seemed to move Justice Mander himself who felt that “No parents can recover from the murder of such a small child.”
Another father was John Milne whose 14-year-old son, Sayyad, was killed in al-Noor Mosque. He offered two photos of his son, one for Justice Mander and the other to “Brenton”.
“In the end, love will always win,” said Sara Qasem towards the end of her statement. Indeed, the huddled groups of families and victims who were offering support to one-another during recess, even if they did not know each other, seemed to prove this.
“I urge you to take a look around this courtroom and ask yourself: Who exactly is the other here right now? Is it us, or is it you? I think that answer’s pretty clear.”