World

Defiant NZ mosque shooting survivors face gunman in court

White supremacist could be the first person in New Zealand to receive a term of life in prison without parole

WELLINGTON: The white supremacist who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand last year watched without emotion yesterday as relatives of his victims recounted the horror of a massacre which prosecutors said he carefully planned to cause maximum carnage.

With the same lack of emotion he showed in court, Australian national Brenton Tarrant, 29, opened fire on men, women and children as he live-streamed the attack on social media, ignoring pleas for help, and driving over one body as he moved from one mosque to the next.

When he saw a three-year-old clinging to his father's leg, Tarrant shot him "with two precisely aimed shots," prosecutor Barnaby Hawes told the court. Little Mucaad Ibrahim was the youngest victim.

Tarrant has pleaded guilty to 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the shooting rampage in the city of Christchurch.

He could be the first person in New Zealand to receive a term of life in prison without parole when a High Court judge sentences him later this week for carrying out the deadliest shooting in the country's history on March 15 last year.

Tarrant spent years purchasing high-powered firearms, researched mosque layouts by flying a drone over his primary target, and timed his attacks to maximise casualties, the prosecutor said.

CREATE FEAR

Mr Hawes said Tarrant told the police he wanted to create fear among the small Muslim minority in New Zealand.

Tarrant had also expressed regret for not taking more lives and revealed he had intended to burn down the Al Noor mosque after the shootings, Mr Hawes said.

"He intended to instil fear into those he described as invaders, including the Muslim population or more generally, non-European immigrants," Mr Hawes said.

But all of those who lived through the shootings had a message of defiance as they stood before the gunman to make impact statements.

Witnesses were uncowed as they confronted Tarrant, who sat impassively in the dock wearing grey prison clothes.

"You transgress beyond comprehension, I cannot forgive you," said Ms Maysoon Salama, whose son Atta Elayyan was killed.

"You gave yourself the authority to take the souls of 51 innocent people, their only crime - in your eyes - being Muslims."

Ms Salama said he had not achieved his self-appointed mission to undermine New Zealand's small, tight-knit Muslim community.

"You thought you could break us, you failed miserably," she said.

Mr Gamal Fouda, the Al Noor mosque's imam, said he would not allow Tarrant's actions to sully a place of peace and love for his people.

"I was standing on the pulpit and saw the hate in the eyes of a brainwashed terrorist. I lived with that nightmare afterwards," he said, telling Tarrant: "Your hatred is unnecessary."

Ms Janna Ezat, whose son Hussein Al-umari was killed as he tried to rush the shooter, said she made a decision not to hate Tarrant.

"I decided to forgive you Mr Tarrant because I don't have hate... If we are able to forgive, we forgive," she said. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD