New Zealand mosque gunman will not speak in his defence

New Zealand mosque gunman will not speak in his defence
Brenton Harrison Tarrant (AP)

New Zealand mosque gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant has told a judge he will not speak in his defence at his sentencing hearing for the mass shooting of worshippers in Christchurch.

Tarrant had the opportunity to speak on the final day of a hearing which has seen 90 survivors and family members talk about the pain of the March 2019 attacks at two mosques in the city, which left 51 people dead.

The killer had earlier sacked his legal team but was appointed a standby lawyer at the high court in Christchurch.

John Milne holds a photograph of his son, Sayyad Milne, who was killed in the massacre (AP)

Philip Hall, the standby counsel, told judge Justice Cameron Mander that he would make a brief statement on Tarrant’s behalf.

Tarrant confirmed to Justice Mander that he did not wish to speak.

The 29-year-old Australian has pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism for carrying out the attacks in March 2019.

Many of the victims and family members who have spoken at the hearing have asked the judge to impose the maximum possible penalty – life without the possibility of parole.

Earlier on Wednesday, a woman speaking about her beloved father brought many people in the courtroom to tears.

Sara Qasem said she wonders if, in his last moments, her father was frightened or in pain, and wishes she could have been there to hold his hand.

Sara Qasem gives her victim impact statement (AP)

She told the gunman to remember her father’s name: Abdelfattah Qasem.

Ms Qasem said: “All a daughter ever wants is her dad. I want to go on more road trips with him. I want to smell his garden-sourced cooking. His cologne.

“I want to hear him tell me more about the olive trees in Palestine. I want to hear his voice. My dad’s voice. My baba’s voice.”

The hearing has given a chance for some of the survivors and family members to confront Tarrant.

The 29-year-old Australian has shown little emotion during the sentencing. He has watched the speakers, occasionally giving a small nod or smirking at jokes made at his expense.

Ms Qasem said Tarrant made a choice.

Ahad Nabi gestures as he reads a victim impact statement (AP)

“A conscious, stupid, irresponsible, cold-blooded, selfish, disgusting, heinous, foul, uninformed and evil choice,” she said.

She said she pitied Tarrant’s coarse and tainted heart, and his narrow view of the world that could not embrace diversity.

“Take a look around this courtroom,” she said to the gunman. “Who is the ‘other’ here, right now? Is it us, or is it you? I think the answer is pretty clear.”

Ms Qasem said that love will always win.

At the current hearing, Tarrant has not shown the brazenness he did at his first court appearance the day after the attacks, when he made a hand gesture sometimes adopted by white supremacists.

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.

Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah gestures at Tarrant (AP)

They also prompted global changes to social media protocols after the gunman livestreamed his attack on Facebook, where it was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

Also speaking at Wednesday’s hearing was Ahad Nabi, whose father Haji was killed.

Mr Nabi stared at the gunman and gave him the finger with both hands.

“Your father was a garbageman, and you have become trash of society,” Mr Nabi said.

He said Tarrant was a sheep who wore a wolf’s jacket for 10 minutes of his life, and that only fire awaited him.

A statement from the father of the youngest victim, three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, was also read to the court.

The boy’s father said his son loved playing in the mosque and made friends with all the worshippers, young and old.

Mucaad loved to run around at home and dress up as a police officer, his father said, and they wondered if he would one day join the force.

“Your atrocity and hatred did not turn out the way you expected,” the father said in the statement.

“Instead, it has united our Christchurch community, strengthened our faith, raised the honour of our families, and brought our peaceful nation together.”

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