Mosque widow after sentencing: ‘I couldn’t believe that what we prayed for, we got’

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Survivors and victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks expressed relief yesterday after the “wicked” terrorist was jailed for life without parole.

Cries of “Allahu akbar”, or ‘God is most great’, were heard outside the High Court in Christchurch after Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, was sentenced.

Ahmede Yesuf, shot and wounded at Al Noor Mosque where 44 people died on March 15, 2019, said the mass murderer got what he deserved.

“Today is the happiest day,” he said.

“As the judge says, he is a terrorist … and life without parole is the highest you can get in New Zealand. That’s what he deserves.”

Al Noor Mosque Imam Gamal Fouda, who himself survived the massacre, stood defiantly outside court.

“We respect our justice system,” he said.

New Zealand Muslims, along with non-Muslims across the country, had stood together against hate and extremism, Fouda said.

“All extremists represent hate but we are here today to represent love, compassion. We are very proud we are Muslims in New Zealand and will continue to serve this country.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, praised globally for her response to the terror attacks, acknowledged the strength of “our Muslim community who shared their words in court over the past few days”.

She admitted how they were able to relive the horrific events to chronicle what happened that day and the pain it has left behind.

“Nothing will take the pain away,” Ardern said.

“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.

“The trauma of March 15 is not easily healed, but today I hope is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist behind it. His deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence.”

Muslim Association Canterbury President Mohamed Jama celebrates with members of the public outside Christchurch High Court following the sentencing of Brenton Tarrant.

Hamimah Tuyan, whose husband Zekeriya Tuyan was the last person to die as a result of Tarrant’s violent rampage, was relieved the “intense” court process is all over.

She found it to be a “cathartic” experience.

Hearing the final sentence of life without parole felt like “an outer body experience”, she said.

“I just came out quite dazed. I couldn’t believe that what we prayed for, we got. It’s a whole lot of relief.”

Hamimah Tuyan delivering her victim impact statement. Photo / Pool

Mustafa Boztas, who survived the massacres, also feels a heavy weight lifted off his shoulders.

“[The gunman] was trying to manipulate us, he was trying to play with our minds,” he said.

“But Justice [Mander] didn’t let him use the court as a platform. I’m really happy with the result. Our New Zealand system hasn’t failed us.”

Before giving his victim impact statement, he was nervous.

But when he got inside the courtroom he saw that Tarrant was “weak, mentally and physically” and felt courageous enough to say what he wanted.

Janna Ezat, centre, with daughter Aya Al-Umari and husband Hazim Al-Umari on day one of the sentencing. Photo / Pool

Janna Ezat, whose son Hussein Al-Umari died in the attacks, had mixed emotions after the sentencing.

She felt relief but was “paralysed” and was looking forward to going home and relaxing with a cup of tea.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel praised the courage of the mosque attack victims.

“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 in that 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,” she said.

Mosque shooting survivors, from left, Mustafa Boztas, Wassail Daragmih and Temel Atacocugu celebrate as they leave the Christchurch High Court after the sentencing.

“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 to move on.

“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.

“Our challenge now is to make sure that sense of unity and togetherness continues. We need to continue to demonstrate to the world that there is no place for hate in our city or anywhere else.”

Christchurch mosque attacks: Relief at final sentence of life without parole