New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant sentenced to life in prison without parole

Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist who live-streamed his massacre of 51 people at two New Zealand mosques last year, was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday for carrying out the worst atrocity in the country’s modern history.

Tarrant showed little reaction as Judge Cameron Mander handed down the decision, concluding an emotional four-day hearing in which surviving victims and relatives of the deceased confronted the gunman face-to-face.

“From what I can gauge, you are empty of any empathy for your victims,” Mander told Tarrant, describing the gunman as “a deeply impaired person motivated by a base hatred of people you perceive to be different.”

“You remain entirely self-absorbed, you have offered no apology or acknowledgement of the harm you caused,” he continued. “Your focus appears to be on yourself and the position you find yourself in.”

 The 29-year-old, armed with semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, attacked Muslim worshipers indiscriminately during Friday prayers at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch on March 15, 2019, shocking a tolerant nation accustomed to low crime rates and little history of terrorism. The sentence delivered by the High Court on Thursday was the first time New Zealand — which abolished the death penalty for murder in 1961 — has imprisoned a person with no prospect of their release.

As Tarrant was led away after learning his punishment, his victims wept and hugged one another. Outside the court complex in the Christchurch city center, crowds of people gathered, some holding signs with messages of support for the victims and their families. Others sang songs, as Tarrant’s sentence sparked an outpouring of relief that he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Tarrant pleaded guilty earlier this year to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of committing a terrorist act. The former fitness instructor did not speak personally in his defense during his sentencing hearing.

Lawyers said Tarrant, who is Australian, regretted his actions, had changed his beliefs and wanted to meet his victims — many of whom were holding white flowers in the hearing room on Thursday.

Prosecutor Mark Zarifeh cited Tarrant’s statements to psychiatric and judicial officials in which the gunman described his actions as “unnecessary, abhorrent and irrational,” saying he was influenced by political views that he now concedes “were not real.” Zarifeh also referenced the mass murderer’s statement to officials that he was deeply unhappy and committed his crimes because he “wanted to damage society as an act of revenge.”

During submissions delivered by three lawyers, Tarrant looked on attentively in silence, occasionally resting his head on his right hand.

Zarifeh said a life sentence without parole was appropriate, noting the “extreme violence, brutality, cruelty, callousness” of the gun rampage, life-altering trauma to survivors, and the careful planning that preceded Tarrant’s assault.

Tense scenes played out in the court this week as distraught victims confronted Tarrant, labeling him a “monster,” a “loser” and “the devil.”

On Wednesday, Sara Qasem brought some in the room to tears as she described her father, who died in the massacre, as a “hero” and a “shining, glimmering man.” She told Tarrant not to forget his name: Abdelfattah Qasem. “I want to hear my dad’s voice, my baba’s voice,” she said, before pausing to cry.

Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah, who fought off Tarrant with a credit card machine and chased him from the Linwood Islamic Center on the day of the attacks, saving many lives, told the gunman on Wednesday that he “should thank God on that day that I didn’t catch you. This government would save a lot of money.”

The judge acknowledged Wahabzadah’s courage in preventing more deaths — prompting applause from visitors who were sitting behind a glass screen in the courtroom.

On Thursday, Wahabzadah welcomed the sentence of life without parole. “That is what we were aiming for, and we got it,” he said, describing Tarrant as a “coward” and an “idiot” who had thrown his life away.

Nearby, Kateah Shankland, 12, was on her way with her parents to pay their respects at Al Noor Mosque and show support for the Muslim community.

“We just wanted to make sure that they know that we are also here with them at this very tough time,” she said.

Earlier, Tarrant displayed little emotion throughout the proceedings as he heard traumatic personal accounts from those affected by the slaughter, which unfolded less than two miles from the Christchurch courtroom.

Authorities had been eager to prevent Tarrant, who had posted a racist manifesto online, from using the court as a platform to extol extremist views. An official inquiry is examining whether intelligence and law-enforcement agencies missed warning signs or failed to investigate tips about Tarrant.

The mosque bloodshed prompted New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — who faces elections in October — to tighten the country’s gun laws, banning most semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles and initiating a buyback of existing firearms.

Commenting on the sentence Thursday, Ardern said the trauma of the attacks would not be easily healed, as she extended sympathies to Tarrant’s victims and the Muslim community.

“Nothing will take the pain away,” she said. “But I hope you felt the arms of New Zealand around you through this whole process, and I hope you continue to feel that through all the days that follow.” (Washington Post)


The post New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant sentenced to life in prison without parole appeared first on NewsWire.

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