Wellington: The Australian white supremacist murdered 51 Muslims in the New Zealand mosque shootings last year and will face the atrocities of the survivors at the sentencing hearing next week, which may cost him life imprisonment.
The far-right extremist Brenton Tarrant was convicted in March of 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and 1 terrorism after abandoning his previous defense of innocence.
Due to strict security and unprecedented media reporting restrictions, Tarrant is expected to hold a four-day sentencing hearing in the Christchurch court, starting on Monday.
Since the shooting on March 15, 2019, some of his survivors and the families of their victims will be allowed to meet him in court for the first time.
Previously, he was selected into the courtroom from the Oakland Highest Security Prison through a video link, except for a brief appearance in a closed courtroom the day after the shooting.
With wounds still raw from an atrocity that shocked New Zealand, presiding High Court judge Cameron Mander said the sentencing was an important milestone for victims.
“Finality and closure is considered by some as the best means of bringing relief to the Muslim community,” he said in the lead-up to the hearing.
Among the more than 60 people who will publish victim impact statements, many have traveled from overseas, and they have undergone a two-week quarantine for their participation.
Due to coronavirus-related restrictions, hundreds of people will have to watch social distancing through live broadcasts of the seven courts in Christchurch, while others will be allowed to monitor it online.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this will be a difficult week for many people.
“I don’t think there’s anything I can say that is going to ease how traumatic that period is going to be,” she told reporters Friday.
“The whole process is likely to take some time, that’s as it should be, people need to be heard.”
The police will step up patrols around the court, victim support personnel will be present, and local mental health experts will be on standby for referral.
This is part of a large-scale logistics effort that includes real-time translation of proceedings into eight languages to accommodate the diverse Muslim community in New Zealand.