24 Aug 2020: Christchurch terrorist planned to burn down mosques, NZ police say
Over a year after the tragic Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, a court heard for the first time the official account of what the terrorist had planned.
Brenton Tarrant had planned to burn down the two mosques where he had gunned down 51 people and intended to attack a third mosque in Christchurch last year, the court was told.
Here are more details.
Court hearing: Tarrant appeared in court in person for first time
Tarrant appeared in court for the first time in person for a high-security hearing on Monday. The previous court appearances have been via video link from jail.
Tarrant faced the victims of the attack along with those bereaved.
At the beginning of the four-day hearing, the prosecutors read the authorities' version of what happened during last year's March 15 attack.
Plan: Tarrant moved to NZ in 2017; started planning attack
The prosecutor revealed to the court that Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist from Australia, had moved to New Zealand in 2017.
He then started planning the attacks and looked up mosques he could target. He viewed building plans of the targeted locations and moved from the southern city of Dunedin, where he lived, to Christchurch two months before the attack.
Plan: Tarrant flew drone over mosque to scope entrances, exists
Tarrant had also flown a drone over the Al Noor Mosque, one of the two mosques where he had opened fire during Friday prayers, to check the building's entrances and exits.
On the day of the terror attack, the police said they found petrol cans in the gunman's car, which he intended to use to burn the buildings.
Details: Terrorist remained emotionless hearing description of murders
During the hearing, Tarrant reportedly remained blank, seated behind a glass barrier with his hands shackled to his waist, according to The Guardian.
His demeanor remained unchanged as he listened to the description of his murder of a three-year-old, or the woman who sustained a spinal injury during the attack, or the victim whom he shot and later ran over with his car.
Attack: Tarrant fired at victims who were wounded, crying
On March 15, the gunman had attacked the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Masjid and live-streamed it on Facebook.
The court heard on Monday how the gunman would shoot at those who were wounded, crying, or fleeing.
He also returned to worshippers, including those who had already been shot or were crying, to check for signs of movement and shot them in the head.
Attack: One man shielded others from gunman
The court also heard about some acts of heroism on the day. The prosecutors told the court that a man named Naeem Rashid threw himself at the gunman to shield others from getting shot.
Another man, Adbul Aziz, chased Tarrant as the latter fled in his car, and tossed one of his guns into the window of the vehicle.
Attack: After arrest, Tarrant told cops, 'Should've killed more'
Tarrant was arrested while fleeing from the second mosque, the police summary stated. After the arrest, he admitted to his crimes and told the cops that he wished he had killed more people.
He declared his political and anti-Islamic views as his motivations, which could possibly make him the first offender in New Zealand to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Victim's account: You were misguided and misled: Victims told Tarrant in court
After the description of the attack was read out on Monday, the victims were allowed to speak in court.
Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor mosque, spoke directly to Tarrant: "You were misguided and misled."
Describing Tarrant as a "brainwashed terrorist," Fouda said, "Your hatred is unnecessary. If you have done anything, you have brought the world community closer with your evil actions."
Fact: New Zealand's response opposite of what terrorist wanted: Imam
Fouda also said that New Zealand's response to the attack was "the opposite to what the terrorist had wanted." He said the world saw New Zealand as a "a model of compassion, love and harmony" while the Tarrant was seen as a criminal.