Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist terrorist who shot 51 people dead and wounded 40 more in an attack on two mosques in New Zealand, has been sentenced to life in jail without possibility of parole.
The sentence, the harshest penalty ever doled out by a New Zealand court, guarantees that the 29-year-old Australian will die behind bars.
Judge Cameron Mander, sentencing Tarrant at the High Court in Christchurch where the attacks took place, condemned him as ‘inhuman’, and said his actions were ‘brutal and beyond callous’.
He added: ‘Your crimes are so wicked, that even if you are detained until you die it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation.’
The sentence came at the end of three harrowing days of testimony from 91 of Tarrant’s victims and their families, almost all of whom had urged the judge to ensure that he would never again see the free world.
As news of the sentence broke, it sparked scenes of celebration outside the court, with people cheering, hugging, and waving banners proclaiming ‘we are one’.
Hina Amir, who survived the shooting at Al Noor mosque where 44 of the victims died, said bluntly: ‘He got what he deserved.’
Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch mosques terrorist, has been sentenced to life in jail without the possibility of parole
A survivor of the mosque shooting raises his crutches in the air and celebrates after walking out of the courtroom where Tarrant had just been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole
Mohamed Jama, president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, hugs with members of the community outside the High Court in Christchurch, following Tarrant’s sentencing
Members of the public wave banners proclaiming ‘we are one’ as they wait to hear the news that Tarrant has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail in New Zealand
Gamal Fouda, imam of Al Noor mosque, told reporters outside court: ‘Today, the legal procedure for this heinous crime has been done. No punishment will bring our loved ones back.
‘We respect our justice system and the New Zealand Muslim community and non-Muslim as well, we stood together against hate, and we set our own model for the world.
‘Extremists are all the same. Whether they use religions, nationalism, or any other ideology. All extremist represent hate, but we are here today, we represent love, compassion. Muslim and non-Muslim. Of faith and no faith.
‘There is us, New Zealanders, we are very proud that we are Muslims in New Zealand and will continue to serve this country.’
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also spoke following the sentencing, urging the world to forget about Tarrant now that the case has been closed.
‘He deserves a lifetime of complete and utter silence,’ she said, echoing words she spoke at the time of the attack, when she refused to utter his name to deprive him of public attention.
Some New Zealand newspapers had followed her lead, pixellating his face in court photos, though others continued to name him use images of him.
Ardern also praised the strength of New Zealand’s Muslim community as they relived the experiences of March 15, saying: ‘I hope you felt the arms of New Zealand around you.’
Tarrant sat unmoved during this week’s sentencing as a procession of his victims made powerful and emotionally-charged statements of their loss.
On Thursday, his gaze was fixed on the Crown solicitors who argued for a life sentencing without parole, and Justice Cameron Mander, who agreed to lock him up and to throw away the key.
‘It is difficult to look past the wickedness of each murder … however you are not only a murderer but a terrorist,’ Justice Mander said.
‘Your actions were inhuman. You deliberately killed a three-year-old infant as he clung to the leg of his father.’
Survivors arrive for the sentencing of Brenton Tarrant, the gunman being sentenced for 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism charge after attacks on two mosques last year, at the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand on August 27
Al Noor Mosque shooting survivors Mustafa Boztas, Wasseim Alsati and Temel Atacocugu (L-R) celebrate as they leave Christchurch High Court following the sentencing of Brenton Harrison Tarrant
As victims in the public gallery sobbed, Justice Mander took the time to make a verbal tribute to every murdered and wounded person in his sentence.
One widow described herself as ‘alive but not living’.
‘Accountability, denouncement, deterrence, and protection of the community must be the court’s focus,’ Justice Mander said.
‘No matter how appalling the crime, the potential for rehabilitation must always give a court pause … but I remain unmoved.’
Survivors stood hand in hand smiling outside of the court on Thursday afternoon after the sentence was handed down.
The attacks targeting people praying at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques shocked New Zealand and prompted new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.
They also prompted global changes to social media protocols after the gunman livestreamed his attack on Facebook.
Tarrant was sentenced to life without parole on each of the 51 counts of murder, for 12 years on each of the 40 attempted murder counts, to be served concurrently, and another life sentence for terrorism.
She went on to say there would be no need to think of Tarrant or remember him beyond today.
There are now mounting calls for the killer to be deported back to Australia to serve his time.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he has not received a request for the terrorist to serve his life sentence in Australia.
Survivors celebrate with supporters outside the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, after the shooter was sentenced to life behind bars
Victims and relatives embrace as they wait to enter the Christchurch High Court for the final day in the sentencing hearing for Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, in Christchurch, New Zealand
In a New Zealand legal first, the Australian man has been denied the possibility of ever seeking or gaining his freedom after killing 51 people in last year’s attack (pictured are survivors outside of court)
Sazada Akhter is seen during victim impact statements in the sentencing of mosque terrorist Brenton Tarrant
‘It’s normal practice that criminals convicted of these offences to serve their sentences in that jurisdiction and that’s my understanding of what the arrangements are,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘No request has been made to Australia for that to be any different.’
The prime minister paid tribute to survivors of the New Zealand shootings, saying he and wife Jenny Morrison met with a group who showed incredible grace.
KEY POINTS FROM SENTENCING:
-The Crown pushed for life without parole for ‘clearly New Zealand’s worst murderer’.
-Tarrant did not oppose being locked up for life.
-He claimed in a pre-sentence report that he was not racist or xenophobic.
-He said his political and social views at the time weren’t real, saying he felt ostracised and had wanted to damage society.
-But he accepted it was without doubt a terror attack.
-The Crown said it was clearly ideologically driven, saying Tarrant was a dangerous narcissist who warranted a life without parole.
In making his argument, crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh drew on Australia’s worst mass shooting, the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania.
‘The enormity of offending in this case is without comparison in New Zealand’s criminal history,’ he began.
Mr Zarifeh said Tarrant displayed ‘calculated and militaristic determination in carrying out his plan’, ‘expressed disappointment in not having killed more people’ with ‘calculated sadism and depravity’.
‘Many of those who were shot were on their knees in prayer with their backs to the offender,’ he said.
‘Life without parole is the only proper sentencing option.’
As foreshadowed on Wednesday, Tarrant did not speak at his own sentencing despite opting to represent himself.
He uttered just a smattering of words over the four-day hearing, saying ‘No, thank you’ when Justice Mander gave him one final chance to address the packed courtroom.
His stand-by counsel Philip Hall said Tarrant did not oppose the sentence of life without parole.
Throughout the sentencing, New Zealand’s worst mass shooter was a passive presence.
Surrounded by four security guards at all times and clad in a grey fleece tracksuit, he was attentive but meek in the dock.
In the absence of his own submissions, Justice Mander appointed an independent ‘amicus curiae’, Kerry Cook, to give integrity to the sentencing.
Drawing upon private sentencing reports that Tarrant had changed some of his views, Mr Cook made an argument that a no-parole sentence contravened the universality of human rights.
‘Offending is not an inherent characteristic … there is hope, albeit faint, for rehabilitation,’ he said.
‘Rehabilitation is constitutionally required in any community that places human dignity as its centrepiece.’
According to psychologist, Tarrant ‘proudly’ saw himself as a white European with air of superiority and grandiosity.
The March 2019 attacks targeting people praying at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques shocked New Zealand and prompted new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons (pictured is Al-Noor Mosque)
The psychologist said at the time of the attack Tarrant was in a ‘poisoned mental state’.
He said he felt ‘ostracised by society’ and ‘wanted to damage society as act of revenge’.
Tarrant told the psychologist he ‘wasn’t thinking right at the time” and was “acting on delusional beliefs”.
Justice Mander said Tarrant had ‘no apparent mental orders or psychiatric conditions’ and there weren’t any cognitive disorders present.
‘There was no evidence of a personality disorder – but his racist beliefs ‘developed and intensified’ as he got older.
But Justice Mander dismissed those reports as ‘uncorroborated, self-serving and a relatively recent phenomenon’.
Growing up in the northern New South Wales city of Grafton, Tarrant had an unremarkable upbringing’ and had no previous convictions.
He moved to New Zealand in 2017 before settling in the South Island town of Dunedin where he remained isolated from the community.
Justice Mander said Tarrant was ’empty of any empathy’ for his victims.
He said the shooter appeared entirely self-centred and remained ‘detached’.
Survivors celebrate with supporters outside the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, August 27, 2020
Ahad Nabi is seen during the sentencing hearing for Christchurch mosque gunman Brenton Tarrant on August 26
‘My name is Sara Qasem. Daughter of a hero. Daughter of a shining, glimmering man … daughter of a martyr. Of Abdelfattah Qasem. Remember that name,’ Sara Qasem said firmly (pictured)
This week admirable human dignity was on display from Tarrant’s many victims.
For three days in the High Court, they stood metres from the terrorist and bared their souls, crying for lost loved ones, reliving the trauma of being present in their houses of worship during the attacks.
Tears flowed as victims spoke about their torment following the shooting, many saying they still have trouble sleeping.
Perhaps the most startling testimony came from Ahad Nabi, who lost his 71-year-old father Haj during the attack, who described Tarrant as ‘coward’, a ‘maggot’ and ‘the trash of society’.
Clad in a New Zealand Warriors rugby league jersey, Ahad raised both his middle fingers at Tarrant and flexed his muscles, while branding the killer ‘weak’.
He added: ‘Your father was a garbage man and you became trash of society. He is ashamed of your identity. You deserve to be buried in a landfill. This world was created with colour, a peasant like you will never change the human race.
‘You hurt my father but you never took him away from me. What I mean by this is that you physically hurt him but you gifted my father with becoming a martyr and he’s returned to Allah.’
Mosque shooting survivor Wassiem Daragmih thanks supporters as they leave the Christchurch High Court after the sentencing hearing for Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, in Christchurch
Mosque shooting survivor Mustafa Boztas waves as he leaves the Christchurch High Court after the sentencing hearing for Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant
He described Tarrant as a coward after he shot at ‘defenceless people who were not aware what was going on until it was too late’.
‘Your actions were of a gutless character. There is nothing heroic of your actions,’ Nabi said.
Mr Nabi said he did not forgive Tarrant before asking a special request of the judge.
Another victim, Sara Qasem, was not originally listed on the court plans but rose to speak on behalf of her father Abdelfattah, murdered at Al Noor mosque.
‘My name is Sara Qasem. Daughter of a hero. Daughter of a shining, glimmering man … daughter of a martyr. Of Abdelfattah Qasem. Remember that name,’ she said firmly.
‘My dad never left. He could have left but he stayed behind to help his brothers. Putting others before himself.’
Ms Qasem drew tears from every corner of the courtroom as she grieved for her lost father.
‘I’d never really known what the meaning of a broken heart was until then,’ she said.
A mosque shooting survivor reacts as he leaves the Christchurch High Court after the sentencing hearing for Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, in Christchurch
A student holds a tribute message as he stands outside the High Court to support relatives of victims killed
‘I want to go on more road trips with him.
‘Smell his home cooking. His cologne.’
Crying, she composed herself and eyeballed Tarrant, saying ‘these tears are not for you’.
‘To hear his deep belly laugh,’ she continued.
‘I want to hear him tell me more about the olive trees in Palestine. I want to hear his voice.’
Abdul Aziz, who saved lives by running at the gunman at the Linwood Islamic Centre, celebrates with members of the public outside Christchurch High Court following the sentencing of Brenton Harrison Tarrant on Thursday
Members of the public gather in front of the High Court to support relatives of victims killed in the 2019 twin mosque shootings
Ms Qasem’s moving testimony came alongside those who gave more pointed addresses.
The rich displays of emotion inside the courtroom contrast sharply with the everyday collegiality in the halls of the Christchurch courthouse between sessions.
With limited space in the court due to COVID-related social distancing restrictions, victims forfeited their right to having a support person nearby to allow more victims to take seats inside the small courtroom.
They wore or carried white roses on their lapels, carried pictures of dead family members, while one carried a toy panda.
TIMELINE OF TERROR: HOW THE CHRISTCHURCH MASSACRE THAT CLAIMED 51 LIVES UNFOLDED
A 28-year-old Australian man entered a mosque in central Christchurch on Friday afternoon and opened fire on people gathered inside the building – killing 51 people and leaving dozens more injured.
This is how the incident unfolded in local New Zealand Time on March 15, 2019.
1.40pm: First reports of a shooting at a mosque in central Christchurch.
A man entered the mosque with an automatic weapon and opened fire on people inside.
2.11pm: Police confirmed they were attending an ‘evolving situation’ in Christchruch.
Gunshots are heard in the area outside Masid Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue.
Witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots, with one saying she attempted to give CPR to an injured person but they died.
2.17pm: Multiple schools went into lockdown in Christchurch.
People who were in the mosque began to leave covered in blood and with gunshot wounds.
2.47pm: First reports of six people dead, three in a critical condition and three with serious injuries.
2.54pm: Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the situation is ‘serious and evolving’ and told people to remain indoors and stay off the streets.
The Canterbury District Health Board activated its mass casualty plan.
3.12pm: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cancelled her afternoon arrangements.
3.21pm: Christchurch City Council locked down many of their central city buildings.
3.33pm: First reports of a bomb in a beige Subaru that crashed on Strickland Street, three kilometres from the shootings.
3.40pm: Police confirmed there were multiple simultaneous attacks on mosques in Christchurch.
3.45pm: Reports of multiple shots fired at the shootings, which are ongoing.
3.59pm: 300 people were reported to be inside the moque.
4.00pm: One person is confirmed to be in custody but there are warnings there may be others out there.
Police commissioner Mike Bush urges Muslims across New Zealand to stay away from their local mosque.
4.10pm: Jacinda Ardern calls Friday ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’.
5.27pm: First reports of a second shooting.
A witness said a Muslim local chased the shooters at the mosque in Linwood, firing in ‘self defence’.
5.31pm: Four people are confirmed to be in custody. including one woman.
Multiple fatalities were reported.
7.07pm: It was confirmed an AR15 rifle was used in the attack.
7.20pm: Dunedin Street was cordoned off.
Reports the attackers planned to also target the Al Huda Mosque.
7.26pm: At least 40 people were confirmed dead, Jacinda Ardern confirmed.
7.34pm: Confirmed that 48 people were being treated in hospital.
7.46pm: Britomart train station in central Auckland was evacuated after bags were found unattended.
The bags were deemed not suspicious.
8.35pm: New Zealand’s Government confirmed this is the first time ever the terror level has been lifted from low to high.
9.03pm: Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirms that the death toll has risen to 49.
Brenton Tarrant was later charged with murder, and the death toll rose to 51.