New Zealand survivor tells mosque gunman: ‘You are the loser, and we are the winners’

Families tell of heartbreak on second day of sentencing hearing for Brenton Tarrant

Tuesday 25 August 2020 13:31
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'You are the loser': New Zealand shooting survivor tells mosque gunman

“You are the loser, and we are the winners,” Christchurch mosque attacker Brenton Tarrant was told by a survivor on Tuesday.

Mirwais Waziri was among the survivors and family members who spoke on the second day of a four-day sentencing hearing for Tarrant, a white supremacist who killed 51 worshippers during the March 2019 terror attack.

Mr Waziri said the killer had not shown any remorse and so he wanted to deliver a message rather than a victim impact statement. The Afghanistan native said he was sometimes associated with terrorism but now he had been freed. You took that name from me,” Mr Waziri said, to applause. “Today, you are the terrorist.”

Tarrant, 29, pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder, and terrorism in March, reversing an earlier not guilty plea. He could become the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

During day two of his sentencing, he occasionally smirked at the victims and their families when they mocked him. One told him to use his vast reserves of spare time to read the Quran, while another said he was still alive because Tarrant was a poor shot beyond point-blank range.

Relatives and survivors also described how, more than a year after the attacks, they still had difficulty sleeping, enjoying life and providing for their families.

Rashid Omar, whose 24-year-old son Tariq was killed at the Al Noor mosque, said he had hoped his son had survived until the moment police and Muslim leaders read out a list of those killed.

“My body felt completely weak and everything went silent,” he told the court. “As a parent, no matter how old your children are, they’ll always be your baby,” he said.

Each day has become a burden to endure and he finds even simple tasks hard to complete, Mr Omar said. He wakes up tired and with no energy. He once loved photography, he said, but now cannot bear to pick up a camera.

His wife Rosemary said she functioned from moment to moment, often in a fog. The loss and grief is debilitating, she said, and has cast a shadow over everything in their lives. ”It’s like I’m broken, and I see my family as broken,” she said.

Many of those who spoke described ongoing financial strain.

Motasim Uddin, who was shot in the leg and spent more than three months in hospital, said he been unable 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,” Mr 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 told Tarrant.

Tarrant has dismissed his lawyers and is representing himself during the sentencing.

His murder spree at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques shocked New Zealand and led to new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.

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.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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