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NZ court told killer spent years preparing for mosque attacks

Prosecutor opens sentencing saying self-confessed white supremacist wanted to instil fear among Muslim community.

The Australian man who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand in 2019 meticulously planned his shooting rampage to maximise casualties, a prosecutor said at the start of sentencing hearings on Monday.

Brenton Tarrant, a self-confessed white supremacist, has pleaded guilty to 51 murder charges, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act in relation to the massacre in the southern city of Christchurch, which he streamed live on Facebook.

The 29-year-old faces a life prison term, possibly without parole, when he is sentenced later this week.

Handcuffed and dressed in grey prison clothes, Tarrant sat with hands clasped for most of the morning’s proceedings. He showed little emotion, and looked directly at those delivering victim impact statements.

Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes said Tarrant told police after his arrest that he wanted to create fear among the Muslim population.

“He intended to instil fear into those he described as invaders, including the Muslim population or more generally non-European immigrants,” Hawes said.

Tarrant also expressed regret for not taking more lives and had planned to burn the mosques down, Hawes said.

Gamal Fouda, imam of Al Noor mosque, told Tarrant that he was “misguided and misled” and that his hatred was unnecessary.

“I can say to the family of the terrorist that they have lost a son and we have lost many from our community, too,” Fouda said.

“I respect them because they are suffering as we are.”

While most of Tarrant’s victims were at Al Noor mosque, he attacked a second mosque before being detained en route to a third.

The attacks prompted a global outpouring of grief, as well as a ban on weapons and closer scrutiny of online platforms.

Families to address court

Security was tight outside the court, with police dogs pacing the streets and snipers on rooftops, television footage showed.

High Court judge Cameron Mander said that he had received more than 200 victim impact statements, along with submissions from various organisations.

“I have read them all,” said Mander, who added that he would not sentence Tarrant before Thursday morning after survivors and family members of victims had had an opportunity to address the court.

Many of the people who will give victim impact statements have travelled from overseas for the sentencing, undergoing two weeks of quarantine so they can participate.

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