The terrorist who killed 51 faithful Muslims in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, will spend the rest of his life in prison, a judge has said. This is the first time under current New Zealand law that a life sentence without the possibility of parole has been imposed.
Dozens more were injured in attacks in March last year in the country’s worst peacetime massacre. This sparked a wave of heartbreak and unity in New Zealand and the world, and sparked debate on how to deal with white supremacist terrorism.
Previously, the shooter, Australian Brenton Tarrant, 29, had not opposed the conviction in court on Thursday – although he was given the chance – causing surprise to some of his victims.
“You present yourself as a deeply disabled person motivated by a basic hatred towards people whom you perceive to be different from yourself,” Judge Cameron Mander, the presiding judge, told Christchurch courthouse as he pronounced the sentence.
“You have offered no apology or public acknowledgment of the harm you have done,” he added. “While I appreciate that you have given up on the opportunity to use these procedures as a platform, you do not appear contrite or ashamed.”
“You have committed mass murder,” Judge Mander said. “You massacred unarmed and defenseless people.”
The attacks had been largely planned over a long period, he said. An earlier official report to the court revealed that the gunman had amassed a cache of semi-automatic weapons and studied the plans of the mosques he intended to attack.
“The sole purpose of this preparation was to kill as many people in each mosque as efficiently and systematically as possible,” he added.
Before imposing the prison sentence, Mander read aloud, at length, moving descriptions of most of Tarrant’s victims and recounted the remarks their families had told him. Twice, the judge paused briefly to blow his nose and pull himself together.
“Their loss is unbearable,” he said, of a family. In remarks on another victim, he said: “Your actions have destroyed this family as they have so many others.” Some in the public gallery cried when the judge mentioned their murdered relatives.
Of 3-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, who was deliberately executed by the gunman, Mander said: “No parent can recover from the murder of such a small child. “
The sentence came after the court heard three days of emotional statements from the victim in which more than 90 of those bereaved or injured in the attacks turned to court. Many have asked Mander to forbid the shooter from getting out of prison.
The Australian broadcast part of the massacre live on Facebook and posted an extremist manifesto online detailing his anti-Islamic views. In March of this year, he brutally pleaded guilty to the charges he faced – 51 counts of murder, one of attempted murder and one charge of terrorism – and he feared using the hearing to decide on his sentence as a platform for his extremist. ideology.
Before the sentence was handed down, the prosecutor and the terrorist – who had appeared at the hearings after firing his lawyers in July – gave their opinion on what the sentence should be.
Mark Zarifeh, the lead prosecutor in the case, said no minimum prison sentence was sufficient for the shooter, “given the gravity of the offense and the devastating loss of life and injuries”.
“The enormity of the offense in this case is beyond compare in New Zealand’s criminal history,” he said, adding that there could be “no doubt” that the shooter was ” clearly New Zealand’s worst murderer ”.
The Tarrant murders had been largely planned, the prosecutor said. Zarifeh urged the judge to take into account the vulnerability of the victims and the “calculated and militaristic determination” of the shooter in implementing his plan.
Many of those who were shot “were on their knees in prayer with their backs turned towards the offender,” he added. “They were clearly vulnerable to the spontaneous infliction of violence.”
Zarifeh added that the term was necessary to deter others. Many of the 220 victim impact statements provided to the court – of which dozens were read aloud to the judge this week – reflected the “real fear” of similar attacks in the future.
The prosecutor also spoke about what is known about Tarrant’s mental state and motivations, referring to psychological reports ordered last year to ensure the shooter was fit to plead the charges. These reports noted that the gunman showed no remorse, no concern for those affected and spoke factually about his crimes, the prosecutor said.
The shooter listened intently to the prosecutor without posting a response. He has sometimes, in the previous days, recognized his victims.
A deputy lawyer had been made available to the court if Tarrant wanted to use them, which he did on Thursday. In one sentence, lawyer Philip Hall said he had received an instruction from the shooter to “not oppose the request for a life sentence without parole”. Hall took his place.
“Wow,” said one of the shooter’s victims in the public gallery.
Mander spoke directly to the shooter. Did Tarrant want to say something?
“No, thank you,” he said.
Throughout the morning, dozens of members of the public began to gather in the blockade outside the courthouse. Many carried signs representing big red hearts or reading: “We are one”.