Christchurch mosque gunman sentenced to life imprisonment in New Zealand

By Jacquiline Nakandi

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The gunman of last year's terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand was sentenced to life imprisonment, the High Court announced on Thursday.

The sentence came after three days of the final hearing of the case.

The 29-year-old Australian gunman, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, killed 51 people and injured 40 others on March 15, 2019.

He is being sentenced on 51 murder charges, 40 attempted murder charges and one terrorism charge.

A total of 91 victims and family members expressed grief, mental and physical injures, and anger at the hearing in the High Court in Christchurch starting on Monday.

According to the description of the shooting read at the court, "the defendant turned to his right and fired 32 shots from his AR-15 into the mass of people in the northeastern corner of the room.

The rate of fire was extremely high and the defendant moved the AR-15 across and back many times."

Tarrant murdered 44 people at the Al Noor Mosque and killed seven more at the nearby Linwood Mosque.

He also injured 40 others in the mass shooting, according to the prosecutor.

The gunman conducted a research of the view of the Al Noor Mosque by flying a drone over the mosque in January 2019.

"The planned time for entry was to ensure the maximum number of worshippers would be present," according to the summary
presented at the court.

According to his interview with the police, Tarrant said he had planned to burn the mosques down and wanted to "inflict as many fatalities as possible."

He was on the way to another mosque in Ashburton, 85 km southwest of Christchurch, to carry out another attack when he was stopped by the police.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the strength of the Muslim community who shared their words in court over the past few days.

"You relived the horrific events of March 15 to chronicle what happened that day and the pain it has left behind," Ardern said in a statement after the sentencing.

"Nothing will take the pain away but I hope you felt the arms of New Zealand around you through this whole process, and I hope you continue to feel that through all the days that follow," said the prime minister.

She called last year's March 15 "the darkest day" in New Zealand history.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel praised the courage of the mosque attack victims who addressed the High Court this week at the sentencing of the mass shooter.

"Since the atrocious act of terror unfolded in our city on 15 March 2019, our Muslim community has taught us much about peace, love, compassion and forgiveness.

They gave us another lesson this week as they came face-to-face with the terrorist." 

"They showed enormous courage and delivered their incredibly moving testimony with dignity and grace," Dalziel said in a statement.

"I think it is very fitting that the man who perpetrated the worst crime in New Zealand's history should get the harshest sentence in New Zealand's history.  Hopefully his sentencing today will help people move on," she said.

"The mosque attacks were a hate-filled act designed to divide us but, as it was stated in court this week, they have done the opposite. They have brought us closer together," the mayor said.