White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 51 loyal Muslims in 2019 in New Zealand, remained unmatched on Monday as survivors and prosecutors returned to the trial during the long minutes of terror at two mosques in Christchurch. He could be sentenced to life in prison.
He may be the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to life without trial. Australia’s Brenton Tarrant, the perpetrator of the bombing of Christchurch, will be sentenced over his fate at the end of the four – day trial, which began on Monday 24 August in Christchurch High Court.
At home in his trial, the 29-year-old Australian, who had so far attended a video conference from his high-pressure prison in Auckland, was present in court. This is the first time he has been confronted with survivors and families since the attacks on March 15, 2019.
Brenton Tarrant, silent and unconscious
Dressed in his gray prison uniform and flanked by three police officers in the booth, Brenton Tarrant remained silent and indistinct, sometimes raising his head to watch the crowd.
Prosecutor Barnaby Hawes reported a cooling of facts and explained that the accused “wanted to kill more people”. He recounted how Australians that day methodically slaughtered women, children and men while filming the murders and broadcasting it live on social media, how he ignored pleas of pity from some victims, how he had run over a body while walking from a mosque to another.
When he saw a three-year-old cling to his father’s legs, Brenton Tarrant executed him “with two precisely placed bullets,” Barnaby Hawes said. Several lawyers believe that the Australian will be the first in New Zealand to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of realization.
“Kill as many people as possible”
Brenton Tarrant had been arrested as he was hoping to reach Ashburton, an hour south of Christchurch, to attack a third mosque.
“One of New Zealand’s darkest days”
“He admitted that the police had gone to mosques in order to kill as many people as possible,” Barnaby Hawes said. “During the hearings (…) he explained that the attacks were motivated by his ideological convictions and that he hoped to gain fear among those he describes as ‘invaders’, especially the Muslim population and all non-European immigrants.”
Gamal Fouda, an imam from the al-Nour mosque in Christchurch, said he had “seen hatred in the eyes of a fanatical terrorist” that day. “Your hatred is not necessary,” he told the Australians.
After long denying being the author of the largest mass murder in New Zealand’s modern history, the indictment ended in March. He was convicted of the murder of 51 people, 40 attempted murders and an act of terrorism.
A very prepared attack
Brenton Tarrant arrived in New Zealand in 2017, prosecutors say. He lived in Dunedin, 360 km south of Christchurch, where he had amassed an entire arsenal and bought over 7,000 ammunition.
Two months before the attacks, he had traveled to Christchurch to find the site. He had moved a drone over the al-Nour Mosque, filmed the building, its entrances and exits and made detailed notes about the journey to the Linwood Mosque.
On March 15, 2019, he had driven from Dunedin to Christchurch equipped with several semi-automatic weapons on which he had inscribed various symbols as well as references to the Crusades and the latest attacks.
He had spare magazines full of ammunition as well as jerry cans “to put on the mosques,” BarnabyHawes said. “He said he wished he had done it.”
A few minutes before taking action, he had sent his 74-page “manifesto” to an extremist website, warned his family of what to do and sent e-mails threatening several editors. against mosques.
Strict media control
Brenton Tarrant chose to defend himself without a lawyer.
Judge Cameron Mander, for his part, imposed drastic restrictions on media coverage of the proceedings to prevent the accused from using his trial as a platform to spread his hate messages.
The magistrate states in particular to the media, which do not have the right to report live the content of the hearings, what they can or cannot report.
The slaughter led the government to tighten gun laws and increase efforts to combat extremism on the Internet.
Renowned Christchurch lawyer Nigel Hamptona said the “horrific crime required extraordinary punishment”.