The man who killed 51 people in two mosques in New Zealand in 2019 was planning to target a third mosque, his audience heard.
Brenton Tarrant also plans to burn down mosques, wanting to “kill as many people as possible”.
The Australian pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 attempted murder and one count of terrorism.
Tarrant, 29, faces life in prison, possibly without parole – a sentence never before handed down in New Zealand.
He was confronted in court on Monday by survivors and relatives of the victims.
“You gave yourself the power to take the souls of 51 innocent people, their only crime – in your eyes – of being a Muslim,” said Maysoon Salama, whose son Atta Elayyan was killed.
“Transgress beyond comprehension, I cannot forgive you.”
Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Maysoon Salama appeared to cry while facing Tarrant
The attacks, parts of which of the bandit were broadcast live on the internet, saw him open fire on two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 last year.
He first went to the Al Noor Mosque, shooting people participating in Friday prayers. Then he drove about 5 km (3 miles) to Linwood Mosque and killed more people.
The attack sent shockwaves around the world and prompted New Zealand to quickly change its gun laws.
How did the attack take place?
The sentencing hearing, which will last four days, began Monday morning in Christchurch.
Covid-19 restrictions mean the main courtroom is relatively empty.
Hundreds of people will watch the proceedings on video streams from other courtrooms across the city to enable social distancing measures.
Dressed in a gray prison robe and surrounded on the dock by three police officers, the gunman remained silent, occasionally looking at the room where the survivors and relatives of the victims were seated.
Crown attorney Barnaby Hawes told the court the gunman started to formulate a plan years ago and his goal was “to inflict as many victims as possible”.
He gathered information on mosques in New Zealand – by studying floor plans, locations and other details – with the aim of targeting them when they would be most visited. Highest Crypto Coins Earnings of the Week
In the months leading up to the attack, he traveled to Christchurch and flew a drone to his main target, the Al Noor Mosque.
He also planned to target the Ashburton Mosque, as well as the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center, but was arrested on his way to the Third Mosque.
On the day of the attack, he shot people in the street as they tried to escape from Al Noor Mosque, the court heard.
This included a victim, Ansi Alibava, whose body he led away on leaving the mosque.
On his way to the Linwood Islamic Center, he stopped and shot men of African descent who had managed to escape. He briefly pointed his gun at a Caucasian male, heard the court, but then “smiled and left.”
Who were the victims?
How the attacks took place
He told police after his arrest that his plan was to burn down mosques after his attack and that he would like to do so.
Tarrant is representing himself in court. He had previously denied the allegations and was facing trial in June, but quashed his request.
He faces a minimum sentence of 17 years, but Judge Cameron Mander, the High Court judge presiding over the case, has the power to sentence him to life imprisonment without parole, a sentence never handed down before in New Zealand.
Who were some of the victims?
More than 60 people will publish statements on the impact of the victims in the coming days.
Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
People arrive for the sentencing hearing at Christchurch High Court
Imam of Al-Noor Mosque, Gamal Fouda – who was the first to speak – addressed Tarrant, calling him “deceived and misled”.
He said he saw “hatred in the eyes of a brainwashed terrorist” as he stood in the pulpit, telling Tarrant, “Your hatred is useless.”
The victim’s son, Ashraf Ali, said he was still suffering from trauma, saying: “I have flashbacks, I see corpses all around me. Blood everywhere.”
Other victims included:
Three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim who was directly hit while hanging on to his father’s leg
Abdukadir Elmi, 70, from Somalia, once survived a civil war
Naeem Rashid, originally from
Some relatives of the victims traveled from abroad and underwent a two-week quarantine so that the coronavirus could participate.
Media caption Hamimah Tuyan lost her husband in the attacks
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would be a difficult week for the survivors and the families of the victims.
“I don’t think I can say anything to alleviate how traumatic this time will be,” he said last week.
He vowed never to utter the name of the gun, saying immediately after the attack:
“He looked for a lot in his act of terror, but one was notoriety.”
Less than a month after the shooting, New Zealand’s parliament voted 119-1 on reforms banning military-grade semi-automatic weapons and parts that can be used to make banned firearms.
The government has offered to compensate the owners of the new illegal weapons through a buy-back program.