Victims of Christchurch attack share heartbreak at gunman's sentencing

Christchurch mosque survivor faces the Australian killer in court to tell him: ‘you’re the loser and we’re the winners’ as the gunman awaits sentencing for killing 51 worshippers

  • Brenton Tarrant appeared at second day of his sentencing hearing after killing 51 Muslims in the 2019 attack  
  • A procession of victims and bereaved relatives have read their impact statements to the court this week
  • Victims have described their still-raw traumas as they call for Tarrant to be given life in prison with no parole 

A court room has erupted in applause as victims of the Christchurch mosque attack stood up to the ‘loser’ gunman at his sentencing hearing. 

Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man who killed 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand’s worst modern-day mass shooting in March last year, is being sentenced this week after admitting to the killings. 

A procession of his victims have presented heartbreaking testimonies to the High Court, describing the loss of their loved ones in emotional victim impact statements. 

Several victims said they still have trouble getting to sleep, more than a year after the attack.

Many have described ongoing financial difficulties, trouble socialising, and of course, the grief of losing husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and friends. 

Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man who killed 51 worshippers in New Zealand’s worst modern-day mass shooting last year, is seen listening to victim impact statements on Tuesday

Mirwais Waziri, originally from Afghanistan, was sitting in the hallway of Al Noor Mosque as Tarrant terrorised the mosque on March 15 last year. 

He was struck in the neck by a bullet but survived the attack.

Waziri was due to read a victim impact statement on Tuesday but put it aside to address Tarrant directly, after seeing that he did not have ‘any regrets, any shame in his eyes’. 

‘I decided not to read my statement and show him how much I suffer,’ he said, Stuff reported. 

Waziri instead used his time in front of the court to thank Tarrant for showing the world what a terrorist actually is.

‘We as Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorists do not have religion, race or colour. You are the loser and we are the winners. You proved to the world, you are the terrorist,’ he said. 

Mirwais Waziri, originally from Afghanistan, said: ‘You are the loser and we are the winners. You proved to the world, you are the terrorist’

Brenton Tarrant arrives during his sentencing hearing at Christchurch High Court on Tuesday

Waziri’s powerful comments drew applause from the public gallery. 

Kyron Gosse, the nephew of 65-year-old victim Linda Armstrong, said Tarrant had come to New Zealand as a guest but used that privilege to destroy a family who had lived there for seven generations.  

‘Filled with his own racist agenda this coward hid behind his big powerful guns and shot little old Linda from afar,’ he said.

Gosse said the gunman ‘stole our nation’s innocence’. 

The nation of five-million had been relatively free from major gun violence until the country’s worst mass shooting last year.

Kyron Gosse, the nephew of victim Linda Armstrong, is seen during the sentencing hearing for Tarrant on Tuesday

Sanjeda Neha’s husband Mohammad Omar Faruk, 36, was shot in the back and killed as he prayed at Al Noor Mosque last year. 

The couple’s daughter Noor Omar will turn one on Friday but she never got the chance to meet her father.

In a victim impact statement, the court was told Neha cries when she thinks about the loss of her husband, NZ Herald reported.

‘There are two things I am feeling when I look at our baby emotionally I feel like crying I ask why has Allah taken him away what sin have I committed that we have been punished for,’ she said.

‘Sometimes I would rather die…’

Sanjeda Neha’s husband Mohammad Omar Faruk, 36, was shot in the back and killed as he prayed at Al Noor Mosque on March 15 last year

The couple’s daughter Noor Omar will turn one on Friday but she never got the chance to meet her father (pictured)

Neha’s daughter gets her name from her late father and the mosque he was praying at in his final moments.

‘When I am alone I sometimes thing about Faruk… I cry when I am alone… but I have to be strong for my daughter,’ Neha said.

Neha, who married Faruk in Bangladesh on December 29, 2017, told the court her daughter reminds her of her husband when she breathes and cries.

The mother said she often questions how she will tell her daughter about her father’s death when she is older.  

Faruk had been working in Christchurch since 2015 and had planned to bring then-pregnant Neha over to New Zealand.  

At the time of the attack, Neha was in the couple’s native Bangladesh. She travelled to New Zealand after her husband’s death.

Their daughter was born in New Zealand – where Neha hopes to stay – but there is pressure for her to financially provide for Faruk’s family in Bangladesh.

Zahid Ismail lost his twin brother in the attack last year. Pictured: Zahid Ismail and Raesha Ismail are seen in court on Tuesday

Very few victims have elicited emotion from Tarrant, sitting roughly five metres away in the dock and listening to the victim impact statements.

That was until Zahid Ismail took his place in court, standing stoically and eyeballing Tarrant while his pre-recorded video played on large screens erected in the court.

Mr Ismail lost his twin brother Junaid, who died of a gunshot wound to the chest at Al Noor mosque.

‘While my pregnant wife and I were parking, a shooting was coming into reality,’ he said.

‘My brother is now not able to see his children grow and see their development into adulthood.’

Ms Ismail then described Junaid’s ‘passion for cricket and pride in his long beard’.

Tarrant turned his gaze from the screen and looked towards Mr Ismail, chuckling in acknowledgement.

Mr Ismail, his nose flared and his cheeks pulsing in and out, increased the intensity of his stare.

‘I wanted to see if there was any empathy,’ he told AAP outside court.

‘There is definitely a human being in there.’

For much of the sentencing, Tarrant has sat largely still.

Sometimes the 29-year-old will rest his hand on his desk, tapping one finger repeatedly while the rest of his cross-legged body remains motionless. 

A woman speaks with police officers as she arrives at Christchurch High Court on Tuesday

Police snipers are seen on the roof of Christchurch High Court on Tuesday morning

The terrorist is not inattentive.

He has maintained his gaze on speakers during their statements, or the large screens when pre-recorded statements play.

He has occasionally nodded to victims as they have concluded their statements.

Mr Ismail was followed by his sister, Raesha Ismail, who described her non-Muslim community’s embrace of her Islamic faith in the wake of the attack.

‘After the events of March 15 I don’t think I have to hide my faith in the workplace. This has been positive,’ she said.

‘I’ve put up a Muslim calendar at work … I was asked to host an Eid party which was well attended.

‘I have strengthened my voice to be able to speak up for when it matters.’

Both Mr and Mrs Ismail displayed the defiance that has characterised so many of the victims through the court this week.

‘Since the passing of my brother … I’ve had visions of what his future would have been like, with his wife and children,’ Ms Ismail said.

‘Our family will bring them up to be proud New Zealand children … it is a source of healing to be able to help out when I can.’

Mr Ismail told AAP his testimony was ‘a healing moment’.

‘My brother is now not able to see his children grow and see their development into adulthood. But they will become confident proud Kiwis that live in the same place as their Daddy lived,’ he said.

‘My family and I have always been strong individuals. I continue to attend (Al Noor mosque) and pray with passion and strength.’ 

Noraini Abbas Milne, right, mother of 14-year-old mosque shooting victim, Sayyad, makes her victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing on Tuesday

Mosque shooting survivor Motasim Hafiz Uddin, right, has his victim impact statement read on Tuesday

Motasim Uddin, who was shot in the leg and spent more than three months hospitalised, said he hadn’t been able to return to his job as a welder and was worried about his future, especially as he was trying to support his parents in Bangladesh.

‘I cannot forget what happened, what I saw,’ Uddin said. 

‘I try to forget, but I wake up thinking about it.’

Noraini Milne, whose 14-year-old son Sayyad was killed, said her own survival came as a blessing as she planned to spend her life helping others.

‘You chose to perform a despicable and cowardly act,’ she said to Tarrant.

Tarrant arrives in court to listen to victim impact statements at his sentencing hearing on Tuesday

Mr Ismail (pictured in court on Tuesday) told AAP his testimony was ‘a healing moment’

Tarrant has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of terrorism after storming into two mosques in Christchurch, with the rampage ending when police stopped him as he travelled to a third.

Lawyers expect the 29-year-old Australian to be the first person jailed for life without parole in New Zealand.

Shortly before the shooting, Tarrant published a 74-page manifesto filled with racist conspiracy theories online. 

Tarrant is representing himself at the hearing, but judge Cameron Mander has imposed reporting restrictions to prevent him using the court as a platform for extremist views.  

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