Unprecedented sentence demanded for Christchurch mosque gunman

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND (AFP) – New Zealand mosque gunman Brenton Tarrant will be sentenced on Thursday (Aug 27) over the attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers last year, with survivors demanding he remain behind bars “until his last gasp”.

Tarrant, 29, has faced a four-day sentencing in Christchurch – scene of his deadly rampage on March 15, 2019 – with more than 90 witnesses providing harrowing testimony of the horrors inflicted in New Zealand’s worst terror attack.

The Australian white supremacist has admitted 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of terrorism over the attacks, after reversing an initial not-guilty plea.

He is expected to become the first person in New Zealand imprisoned for life without the prospect of parole when judge Cameron Mander hands down his sentence.

New Zealand does not have the death penalty – although some angry survivors said that was what they wanted for Tarrant – and a life sentence usually attracts a term of 10 to 17 years.

But Hamimah Tuyan, whose husband Zekeriya died of his wounds 48 days after the attack, said it would be an injustice if Mander did not exercise the court’s full powers to impose an unprecedented sentence.

“He deserves not a life imprisonment term of 17, 25 or 30 years, but life imprisonment until his last gasp, his last breath,” she told the court Wednesday.

“He does not deserve credit for his guilty plea, surely a heartless murderer cannot expect to gain any benefit for this?

“It will be a grave injustice, your honour, if he is ever given a second chance to walk in society again.” Tuyan said Tarrant’s “heinous act” had united New Zealanders of all backgrounds in revulsion.

“I have faith that when judgement day comes tomorrow (Thursday) his punishment will represent the people of New Zealand’s repulsion for, and denunciation of, murder and evil white-supremacist ideology,” she said.

Others said Tarrant’s jail term would be only the beginning of his punishment.

“While you are in prison you will come to realise that you are now in hell and only the fire awaits you,” said Ahad Nabi, whose father Haji Daoud Nabi was killed in Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque.

Tarrant, who has sat impassively throughout proceedings, has waived his right to speak at the sentencing, even though he sacked his legal team last month intending to represent himself.

Instead, a court-appointed lawyer will make a brief statement on his behalf before Mander delivers his sentence.

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