Australian terrorist Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 Muslims as they prayed in Christchurch, New Zealand last year, will die in jail after he was sentenced to life without parole.
The 29 year old white supremacist pleaded guilty earlier this year to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the March 2019 rampage which he livestreamed on Facebook.
In delivering the sentence, High Court Judge Cameron Mander said: “Each murder was the product of calculated and lengthy planning and was committed with a high level of cruelty and callousness. Some of your victims were children, others were murdered by you as they lay wounded and incapacitated…
“You shot people in the back and ignored the pleas of the wounded to be spared. You advanced on them, stood over them and viciously took their lives. Most of your victims were at prayer. You violated places of worship where people came together for peace and fellowship…
“However you are not only a murderer, but a terrorist. Your actions go further than demonstrating contempt for the sanctity of life. In the name of a political or ideological cause, you sought to violently intimidate the community and coerce the country’s peaceable form of government and social order essentially to attack New Zealand’s way of life. The beliefs upon which you rely to justify your crimes are rooted in religious and ethnic antipathy and intolerance. The hatred that lies at the heart of your hostility to particular members of the community that you came to this country to murder has no place here. It has no place anywhere.
“Having given the matter much consideration I am satisfied that no minimum period of imprisonment would be sufficient to satisfy the legitimate need to hold you to account for the harm you have done to the community. Nor do I consider that any minimum term of prison will be sufficient to denounce your crimes. The nature and circumstances for your offending, unprecedented in this country are such that I consider the requirements that you serve you sentences of life imprisonment for murder without parole is a necessary sanction that provides a proportionate response.”
The killer had been representing himself and said through a lawyer in court on Thursday that he did not oppose the sentence. Dressed in grey prison clothes and surrounded by guards, Tarrant did not react to the sentence.
Temel Atacocugu, who survived being shot nine times during the attack at the Al Noor mosque, said he felt relieved at the sentence.
“Finally we can breathe freely, and we feel secure, and my kids feel secure,” Atacocugu told The Associated Press news agency. “The justice system has locked up this ideology forever.”
Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor Mosque, said that “no punishment would bring our loved ones back,” but was proud of New Zealand’s response to extremism.
“We respect our justice system and in New Zealand Muslim community, and the non-Muslim as well – we stood together against hate. And with it, our own model for the world. Extremists are all the same. Whether they use religions, nationalism or any other ideology,” he said.
“All extremists, they represent hate. but we are here today. We represent love, compassion, Muslim and non-Muslim people of faith and of no faith. That is us, New Zealanders, and we are very proud that we are Muslims in New Zealand and we’ll continue to serve this country, and no punishment again is going to bring our loved ones back.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was relieved “that person will never see the light of day”.
“The trauma of March 15 is not easily healed, but today I hope is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist behind it. His deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence,” she said.
Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, also welcomed Tarrant’s sentencing.
“Justice was today delivered to the terrorist and murderer for his cowardly and horrific crimes in Christchurch. It is right that we wwill never see or hear from him again,” said Morrison.