A mother who lost her son in the Christchurch terror attacks made the astonishing decision to publicly forgive the gunman at his sentencing today.
Janna Ezat had been reading a victim impact statement to the court, describing her anguish to discover her son Hussein Al-Umari had been murdered by a hateful terrorist in Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque.
When it concluded,she turned to face Brenton Tarrant, who has admitted 51 charges of murder and 40 charges of attempted murder, and spoke to him directly.
“I decided to forgive you Mr Tarrant, because I don’t have to hate,” she said.
“I have only one choice; to forgive you.”
Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian, faces life in jail for carrying out a hateful murder spree across Christchurch’s Al Noor and Linwood mosques in March 2019.
He is being held in court for the next few days to listen to statements from his victims, who have outlined the horror his offending inflicted.
Temel Atacocugu, who was shot nine times inside Al Noor Mosque, was one of many to discuss the ongoing severe trauma it had caused.
He had permanent disability and pain from his injuries but remained a “strong and stubborn Turkish man”.
“The gunman and I looked into each other’s eyes. I saw the moment when I was a target of his gun,” the survivor told the court.
“As I lay under bodies in the mosque, I thought I was going to die. I tried to lie as still as possible when the gunman came back a second time.”
He couldn’t move or make a sound, or the gunman would have “executed me as he did the others,” he said.
“I know if I had moved I wouldn’t be here today. Six bullets were removed from my body but three remain.
“The trauma will live with me forever, the images, smell and sound of the mosque on that day haunt me. I do not foresee a future where I will be without pain, however, I am determined to find a positive way forward to overcome the pain.”
Another victim prayed before beginning their statement, bringing the faith the gunman had sought to destroy into the courtroom, while others spoke of the void that had been left by the loss of loved ones.
More than one then ended with a simple message of hope for the community: “Kia Kaha”.
The sentencing is expected to take several days.