The white Australian supremacist who killed 51 Muslim worshipers in two mosques in New Zealand last year faces survivors of his attack as a sentencing hearing is pending.
Australian Brenton Tarrant is likely to be jailed for life for the rampage.
Tarrant pleaded guilty in March and was found guilty of 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and one terrorism charge.
Survivors and family members of the victims will speak during the four-day hearing.
The hearing will take place at the courthouse in Christchurch, the city where Tarrant carried out the attacks in March 2019.
The first session started on Monday morning,
Covid-19 restrictions mean the main courtroom is relatively empty.
Seven other overflow courts within the Christchurch Legal Complex are being used to allow survivors and relatives of those killed to follow the proceedings.
Tarrant, 29, of New South Wales, had previously denied the charges and was due to stand trial in June, before canceling his plea. He now faces a minimum sentence of 17 years, but Judge Cameron Mander, the High Court judge presiding over the case, has the power to sentence him to life in prison without parole – a sentence never before handed down in New York. -Zeeland.
More than 60 people will be doing victim impact statements in person at the sentencing hearing. Some have traveled from abroad and undergone a two-week coronavirus quarantine in order to participate.
- Who were the victims?
- How the attacks unfolded
Dr Hamimah Tuyan, whose husband Zekeriya Tuyan died nearly seven weeks after being shot at the An-nur Masjid Mosque, flew out of Singapore in time to be quarantined for the hearing.
Dr Tuyan told the BBC that she was hesitant about whether to write an impact statement to read in front of Tarrant, fearing it might ‘stoke her narcissism’, but ultimately decided she would.
“I haven’t really had time to think about how I feel for him or how I feel to see him in the flesh,” she says. “I hope I will be cool, calm and collected. “
Hundreds more will have to watch the proceedings on video streams from other courtrooms across the city to enable social distancing measures. The proceedings will not be shown live to the general public.
Justice Mander said in an order this month that the court would have the power to restrict the publication of victim impact statements if necessary.
Tarrant’s attacks on the two mosques, parts of which he broadcast live online, sent shockwaves around the world and prompted New Zealand to quickly change its gun laws.
Less than a month after the shooting, the country’s parliament voted 119 to 1 on reforms banning military-type semi-automatic weapons as well as parts that can be used to make prohibited firearms.
The government has offered to compensate owners of newly illegal weapons as part of a buy-back program.