Christchurch shooting: Gunman is first in New Zealand to be given life without parole


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The victims of the Christchurch massacre

A New Zealand court has sentenced a man who shot dead 51 people at two mosques to life in prison without parole, the first person in the country’s history to receive this sentence.

Australian Brenton Tarrant had earlier pleaded guilty to the murder of 51 people, attempted murder of another 40 people and one charge of terrorism.

The judge called his actions “inhuman”, adding that he had “showed no mercy”.

The attack, which was livestreamed by Tarrant, shocked the world.

In the wake of the killings, which took place in March last year, New Zealand brought in stricter gun laws.

What happened during the sentencing?

The sentencing hearing lasted four days and more than 60 victim impact statements were heard.

On the last day of statements, Koranic verses were read out and photos of loved ones were shown to the court.

Maysoon Salama, whose son died in the attack, said Tarrant “terrorised the whole of New Zealand and saddened the world”.

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Media captionMaysoon Salama, whose son died in the attack, speaks in court

Sara Qasem, whose father Abdelfattah Qasem died at the Al Noor Mosque, said he was a “shining glimmering man”.

She spoke about the last moments of her father’s life, saying: “I wonder if he was in pain, if he was frightened, and what his final thoughts were. And I wish more than anything in the world that I could have been there to hold his hand and tell him it would all be OK. But I couldn’t do that.”

The gunman chose not to speak in court before Thursday’s sentencing.

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Tarrant was surrounded by police officers as he sat in the dock during the sentencing

What happened in Christchurch?

The gunman opened fire on two mosques in the city on 15 March last year.

He first targeted worshippers inside the Al Noor mosque. Less than 30 seconds later, he returned to his car to pick up another weapon and then re-entered the mosque and resumed firing on those inside.

The entire incident was broadcast on Facebook Live via a headcam he was wearing.

He then drove to the Linwood Islamic Centre where he shot two people outside and then shot at the windows.

A man from inside rushed outside and picked up one of the attacker’s shotguns before chasing him away.

Two police officers then chased and arrested the gunman. After his arrest, he told police that his plan was to burn down mosques after his attack and he wished he had done so.

During this week’s sentencing, the court heard that the gunman planned to target another mosque but was detained by officers on the way.

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Media captionThe BBC report from the day of the shootings

How did New Zealand respond?

The attack prompted New Zealand to reform its gun laws.

Less than a month after the shootings, the country’s parliament voted by 119 to 1 on reforms banning military-style semi-automatic weapons as well as parts that could be used to build prohibited firearms.

The government offered to compensate owners of newly-illegal weapons in a buy-back scene.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that “much more” needs to be done to stop radicalisation in the country.

“The challenge for us will be ensuring in our everyday actions, and every opportunity where we see bullying, harassment, racism, discrimination, calling it out as a nation,” she said on the first anniversary of the attacks.

BBC News