Survivors and victims of the deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand last year have been recounting harrowing stories of survival and loss in the court sentencing hearing for mass murderer Brenton Tarrant.
Right-wing Australian fanatic Tarrant, 29, has admitted shooting men, women and children while they prayed at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 people. He will be sentenced on Thursday.
Tarrant has also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of a further 40 worshippers and a charge of terrorism. He’s representing himself in court.
Sky News reports that Mohammad Siddiqui was shot in the arm at Al Noor mosque, leaving him injured in hospital for eight days. He told the court he was only there a few minutes before “the devil arrived.”
“You arrived at the house of God to kill innocent people and carry out your gutless action. I try not to talk about it because I do not want to give you the satisfaction. We have grieved, we have cried, yet we are stronger.”
“Your time will come, everyone must face God,” he told Tarrant.
Ambreen Naeem lost her husband Naeem Rashid and her eldest son Talha Neem, who was just 21 years old.
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In her statement, read by a support person, she described the killing as “inhumane” and that Tarrant’s “punishment should continue forever.”
But she added that she was proud of her husband: “Naeem died trying to save others and was given the highest award for bravery from Pakistan. This is an honour for our family”.
Mirwais Waziri, from Afghanistan, addressed Tarrant directly, telling him: “You are a terrorist and you have proved that to the world. We have suffered but we are strong, we are stronger than before. I came here as a refugee and I’m not going anywhere. You are the loser – we are the winners. How will you face God on judgement day?”
Brenton Tarrant sat still and silently in court. He watched, listened and nodded in agreement when one victim told the court “life in prison should mean life.”
Yesterday, the court heard how Tarrant talked to police after the attacks, telling them he was “going into both mosques to kill as many people as he could.”
He also planned to burn the mosques to the ground and said he “wished he had done so.”
Brenton Tarrant also planned to take more lives, attempting to head to a third mosque in Ashburton, but was stopped by police who rammed his car and arrested him without resistance.
Tarrant’s crimes carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison, but the high court judge has the option of sentencing him to life in prison without parole, a penalty never before used in New Zealand.