I am writing this while the court case in Christchurch, New Zealand, where 51 people were gunned down and killed by an Australian shooter, is ongoing. It began on Monday and will resume again tomorrow, Tuesday 26th August. An appalling act; an appalling crime. This is how one media outlet covered today's proceedings.
By Marine Lourens17:09, Aug 25 2020 for stuff.co.nz
Applause as victim confronts gunman in court
Applause rang out in the High Court as one victim of the March 15 Christchurch mosque shootings pointed his finger at the gunman and said: "You are the loser and we are the winners."
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, was back in court on Tuesday for the second day of his sentencing on 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of committing a terrorist act.
The proceedings resumed with more victim impact statements. Some were read by victims or family members in person. Others were read by on their behalf or pre-recorded and played in court.
Mirwais Waziri told the gunman he had shown the world what a true terrorist is.
Mirwais Waziri, originally from Afghanistan, was seated in the hallway of the Masjid An-Nur (also known as the Al Noor Mosque) on Deans Ave when the gunman entered and started firing at worshippers. A bullet struck his neck, but he was able to run and hide when the gunman turned his face.
Waziri was scheduled to read his victim impact statement in court on Tuesday, but when he walked up to the microphone in court, he told Justice Cameron Mander he would not read his statement.
After watching the shooter in court as the summary of facts was read on Monday, he saw the gunman had no shame or remorse for what he had done, he said.
"I decided not to read my statement and show him how much I suffer," he said.
He instead thanked the gunman for showing the world what a true terrorist 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."
Zuhair Darwish's brother Kamal Darwish was killed in the Masjid An-Nur shooting, and his mother died of a heart attack the day after Kamal's funeral.
Before the recording was played, Darwish spoke directly to the gunman, calling him a coward and a rat who "is going to die alone".
"You may think you have destroyed us, but you have only destroyed any hope for yourself for the future. You will pay for what you did in this life or in another."
He said the only fair punishment for the shooter would be the death penalty as he "does not deserve to be treated or judged as a human".
In Darwish's pre-recorded statement, he said he spent years convincing his brother to move to New Zealand with his family, as he had thought it was a safe place to live.
"I still find it hard to believe what happened to him."
A pre-recorded statement by Farisha Razak, the daughter of Ashraf Ali, was played in court. Ashraf Ali was in the Masjid An-Nur with his brother, Ramzan Ali, when he was shot in the head and upper body. He had been visiting from Fiji where he owned a taxi company in Suva.
Razak did not mince her words as she addressed the gunman directly: "You are a monster. You ruined people's lives. You didn't accomplish anything – rather you united the country and the world."
She told him he had been rejected by his country, family and friends.
"You are a loser and you do not deserve to see the light of day."
She said she was glad capital punishment was not legal in New Zealand as that would be "too easy" for the terrorist.
"You deserve to suffer for ruining the lives of so many people. Muslims are not bad people – get that in your thick head."
Victim never got to hold baby daughter
Khusbu Ramiz Vora's statement was read on her behalf in court. Vora's husband, Ramiz Arifbhai Vora, was praying for the health of their newborn baby girl when he was killed alongside his father at the Masjid An-Nur.
The couple's baby, Maysa Ramiz Vora, was born five days before the terror attack and was in an incubator. Ramiz Vora never got the chance to hold his baby daughter.
Khusbu Vora said it was her husband's dream to build a life in Christchurch. The couple had lost a baby at 20 weeks, who was buried in Christchurch.
"I cannot leave Christchurch as I want to honour my husband's wishes," she said.
Nathan Smith, a British man who was in the Masjid An-Nur at the time of the attack, looked at the gunman when he told him converting to Islam was the best decision he had made.
"You killed in my name. I am white, Muslim and proud. All you have done is caused great shame for Europeans all around the world," he said.
"At times I think about your parents – they are also victims. They have lost a son. But you had a choice. My brothers and sisters didn't. I will never forgive you."
He implored the gunman to learn more about Islam when he "gets a free minute, which you will have plenty of". The terrorist smiled at this comment. "Very funny, hey?" Smith responded. "I have nothing else to say to you, but you will be judged. You will be judged."
Hazem Mohammed, one of the worshippers who was shot during the attack, claimed in court he had seen the gunman at the mosque two weeks prior to the attack. The defendant shook his head and mouthed "no". (This allegation has not been confirmed by police and was not included in the summary of facts.)
Mohammed implored Justice Mander to impose the harshest sentence available on the terrorist.
"He is a sick man; he is not a human being. I don't want you to let this man see the sun ever again."
Mohamed Mohamedhosen's brother Anwar, his sister-in-law Bibi, and his nephew Zaahir all had victim impact statements read on their behalf in court.
Mohamedhosen, originally from Mauritius, moved to New Zealand four years ago and worked as an engineer.
Anwar said his world stopped when he heard of the terror attack in Christchurch.
"My only wish is to see this murderer punished for all the hurt he caused to us and all thother victims' families. Finally, I would like to repeat the words of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, 'These kinds of people have no place in the world.'"
Alta Sacra, the 35-year-old American wife of Zulfirman Syah, who was shot multiple times in the Linwood Mosque, said the family had emigrated from Indonesia in search of a better life.
She told the court her husband called her from the mosque moments after the attack. He struggled to speak, and she was terrified by the sounds she heard in the background – "like overlapping audio tracks of screaming, crying, moaning and praying".
She begged her husband to say something, and he answered: "Chaos. Chaos. I'm hit, I'm down." The line then went dead. She later found out that he fell unconscious while talking to her on the phone.
She told the court her husband still had extensive physical damage from the injuries he sustained, and they were both struggling mentally to cope with the trauma of the attack.
Mosque gunman 'the devil' and 'a coward'
On Tuesday morning, other victims described the gunman as the devil, a coward, a hate-filled low-life, and the "biggest loser".
Ambreen Naeem, 45, managed to elicit a rare moment of reaction from the gunman as she read her victim impact statement.
Naeem Rashid heroically ran at the shooter, crashing into him after he was shot and causing the gunman to drop to a knee and for ammunition magazines to drop from his vest. His actions allowed several other worshippers to escape.
Rashid's son, Talha Naeem, fell on top of another worshipper after being shot. According to a witness, he used his last words to urge the person beneath him to stay still.
"When I think of [the gunman], I think of the biggest loser," Ambreen Naeem said. The gunman smiled at the comment.
"He tried to scare us, but he targeted the most positive people. He has made us stronger and more positive. Because of this, we will be even better ... and continue to contribute to this society," she said.
Ambreen Naeem lost both her husband and her son in the attack on two Christchurch mosques on March 15.
She said her husband never discriminated against anyone because of their race or religion. That made it hard for her to accept that his religion was why he was killed.
"Naeem died trying to save others and his act of bravery is something that his remaining sons will always feel honour for," she said. "His death is a reflection of his life. He gave his life for the goodness of people, his love for Allah and for humanity."
The defendant appeared to be listening intently as Ambreen Naeem said she believed he should never again have joy in his life. She called him a coward "whose only strength was weapons".. In his pre-recorded victim impact statement, he told the court he still clearly remembers going to the mosque on that fateful day for prayers. "It must have been only five minutes, then the devil arrived," he said.
"You entered the house of God with evil intentions to kill innocent people. You killed my friends and family."
He said he continuously reminds his family how lucky he is to have survived the massacre. "Your time will come," he told the gunman.
Mohammad Shamim Siddiqui, right, speaks at the sentencing of the Christchurch mosque shooter on 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder, and one of terrorism.
"The direct result of just two of those bullets brought an end to my mum's life," she said.
She said she felt guilty for not doing more to learn about her mother's reasons for converting to Islam. Her mum tried to tell her about "the goodness at the heart of Islam", but she chose to listen to the "shocking stories" told by the media, she said.
"I have been robbed of the opportunity to learn further from Mum. Robbed of the chance to say goodbye, to hold her hand during her final breaths as Mum and I did with her parents at the time of their passing. I did not get the opportunity to say goodbye to my mum and to tell her I love her one last time."
Kyron Gosse, nephew of Linwood Mosque victim Linda Armstrong, reads out his victim impact statement on day two of the hearing at the High Court in Christchurch.
Armstrong looked at the gunman as she said he would also never again feel the love and warmth of his mother's hug.
"I have pity for your mum. I have no emotion for you. While you are trapped in a cage, my mum is free."
She challenged the gunman to "consider the beauty to be found in the diversity and freedom he sought to destroy".
Kyron Gosse, Linda Armstrong's nephew, wore a T-shirt with the words "Race: Human; Religion: Love" printed on it as he read his victim impact statement in court.
He said the gunman was a guest to New Zealand and "not one of us", but that did not stop him from carrying out a mass-murder here.
Gosse said he would never get the images from the video of the attacks out of his mind.
"[The shooter] had no issue with Linda Armstrong; he did not even know her. This coward hid behind his big powerful guns and shot Linda from afar. To this day I have not received an apology nor have I seen any shred of remorse for his despicable actions."
Zahid Ismail looked intently at the gunman as his victim impact statement, which was pre-recorded, was played in court. Ismail's twin brother, Junaid Ismail, was killed at Masjid An-Nur.
"My brother is not able to see his children grow up and enjoy their development into adulthood, [but] we will ensure his legacy continues in his children," he said.
When Ismail spoke about the pride his brother had for his large beard, the gunman smiled. Ismail looked straight at the gunman as he said his family had always been strong in their faith and would continue their worship with the same conviction they always had.
Kiran Munir, the wife of Dr Haroon Mahmood who was killed, said she was "astounded" by the gunman's level of cowardice. "He would never have had the courage to confront the worshippers without his firearms," she said. "This has made us stronger, prouder, unbreakable and fearless."
Rashid Omar and Noraini Milne read out their victim impact statements on day two of the hearing.
New baby five months after husband killed
The widow of Mohammed Omar Faruk, 21-year-old Sanjida Neha, cried as her pre-recorded statement was played in court. She told the court how she and her 36-year-old husband had only been married for 15 months when he was killed in the terror attack.
About five months after Faruk's death, Neha gave birth to their baby daughter, Noor e Omar.She said she asked why her husband had to die and wondered if she was being punished. She said it was her husband's dream to create a better life for his daughter in New Zealand, and she would live this dream as she honoured her husband's legacy.
Noraini Abbas Milne, the mother of 14-year-old Sayyad Milne who was killed, told the gunman he was the person who needed help and guidance.
"You chose to perform a despicable and cowardly act. My son now leaves this temporary world as a martyr. That is a blessing that helps me connect more to God," she told him.
"You are already dead to me. Whatever punishment you are going to receive in this world, will never be enough."
Motasim Hafiz Uddin, 48, said he remembered trying to get through a doorway into another room when a bullet hit him in his leg. "I felt the blood and the hole and I knew I had been shot," he said.
"I heard people calling for help and someone calling out for water. I remember seeing all the blood."
Uddin had to undergo four surgeries and spent three-and-a-half months in hospital before he was finally discharged.
Salwa El Shazley, the wife of Ibrahim Abdelhalim – who delivered a prayer at the Linwood Mosque on the day of the shooting – described the horror at seeing the gunman "spray his bullets" and remembered screaming as she and her family fled.
Tariq Omar, 24, was killed in the shooting. His family say they are "broken".
"I would like to think that you would be able to find peace within yourself, but I doubt peace will ever find you. I will never be able to forgive you."
Rosemary Christine Omar, Tariq Omar's mother, said she was in her car waiting to pick her son up from the mosque when the shooting happened. "This monster had no right to take my son from me.
"It is like I am broken and my family is broken. My life can never be the same."
Qariah Omar, Tariq Omar's sister, was also in court to read her victim impact statement in person.
"Tariq was a kind person and of a gentle nature. He did not deserve the cruel fate that the offender gave him. He was robbed of his future, and he was only 24 years old."