Crime & Justice

Christchurch shooter planned to attack a third mosque: authorities

Sydney, Australia, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- The suspected white supremacist who killed 51 people in an attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch in 2019 planned to attack a third mosque, a court was told as his sentencing hearing began on Monday.

Australian national Brenton Tarrant, 29, pleaded guilty in March to 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of terrorism in relation to the massacre he carried out with semi-automatic rifles during Friday prayers at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch.

Tarrant, who is facing life in prison, was brought to the High Court from the maximum security prison where he is being held in Auckland for the four-day sentencing hearing, in which 66 victim impact statements will be read to the court.

Tarrant, who is representing himself, entered the chamber wearing a grey T-shirt and trousers and handcuffs accompanied by four guards.

Judge Cameron Mander, who said that he will not issue the sentence before Thursday, gave the floor to Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes to read out the summary of facts, which he described as “distressing” but “necessary” to be out on the court record.

Hawes first gave details of Tarrant’s arrival in New Zealand in 2017, how he acquired the firearms and ammunition, and the planning of the attacks, which included a reconnaissance flight over the Al Noor Mosque, the main mosque in the city, using a drone.

Tarrant wanted to kill “as many as possible” said the prosecutor, who added that the attacks, partly streamed on Facebook, sought to “directly reduce immigration rates by physically removing the invaders” in a reference to Muslims and non-Europeans from New Zealand.

Howes said the primary targets of the attacks were Al Noor and Linwood, and that Tarrant was “on his way” to another mosque at the time of his arrest.

One of the 12 victims who appeared before the court during the first part of the hearing was Imam Gamal Fouda, who was leading the prayers during the attack on Al Noor.

“You were misguided and mistaken, ….your hatred is unnecessary…you brought the community closer with your evil actions,” he told Tarrant.

Maysoon Salama, whose son Ata Elayyan was killed in the massacre and her husband wounded, accused Tarrant of leaving more than 51 orphans under the age of 18, including her two-year-old granddaughter.

“I can’t forgive you…I think the world could not forgive (these) horrible crimes,” she added, reciting passages from the Quran in a hearing marked by the social distancing measure imposed due to a new COVID-19 outbreak in the country. EFE-EPA


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