Families of Christchurch victims welcome court ruling that mosque mass murderer will never walk free
Crowds of supporters waved signs with painted hearts and carried roses as they greeted survivors of the Christchurch mass shooting, after 51-year-old Brenton Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Thursday.
Chants of "Stand by Me" and traditional Maori songs were heard outside the courtroom as New Zealand came to the collective realisation that its worst mass murderer would never be allowed to walk free.
"Yes I have lost my brother in law but I have now five million brothers and sisters," one man told reporters.
Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah, an Afghan refugee who chased and challenged the terrorist, climbed atop the security barricade outside the court to sounds of cheers, The Guardian reported.
He said he had "never forgotten" the support he had received from New Zealanders. "We are all brothers and sisters." he added
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, hailed globally for her empathy and leadership after attacks, spoke of the relief she felt knowing the perpetrator would "never see the light of day".
"Nothing will take the pain away 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," Ardern said.
Her comments were echoed by deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who called on the Australian convict to be deported "to the country that raised him".
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Gamal Foda, the imam of Al-Noor Mosque which was targeted, said that "no punishment" could ever bring the slain back.
"Extremists are all the same. Whether they use religion, nationalism or any other ideology. All extremists, they represent hate. But we are here today. We represent love, compassion, Muslim and non-Muslim people of faith and of no faith," he said.
Alisha Siddique, whose father was shot in the arm as he tried to flee from the gunman, described her satisfaction that Tarrant "will rot in jail for life".
"We can only heal from here," she added.
While the harshest criminal punishment ever applied in the country has given justice and relief, survivors and relatives of those killed face a long and painful road to healing.
Hina Amir, who along with her husband survived a hail of the bullets in her car during the attack, told Reuters: "It's a relief…You feel angry, anxious, mixed with a feeling that this guy maybe – maybe - he’s regretting his actions."
Hamimah Tuyan, whose husband Zekeyira Tuyan was killed, said the rampage left behind 34 spouses, 92 children and more than 100 siblings, with the network of the bereaved extending across the world, from Bangladesh to Australia.
Tarrant killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch last year.
Judge Mander ruled that Tarrant would spend the rest of his life in jail.
He said his crimes were so wicked that a lifetime in jail could not begin to atone for them, adding that the murderer showed no remorse.
"Your crimes... are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation," he said.