'Evil' Christchurch terror attack brought Muslim community closer, court hears

The sentencing of an Australian terrorist who stormed Christchurch's Al Noor mosque and killed dozens last year has begun in Christchurch.

Khaled Majed Abd’el Rauf Alnobani gestures during the hearing

Khaled Majed Abd’el Rauf Alnobani gestures during the hearing Source: AAP

The leader at the Christchurch mosque where 44 worshippers were killed in last year's terror attack has issued a stirring statement of humanity's defiance at the New Zealand High Court.

Gamal Fouda, the imam at Al Noor mosque, was the first of an expected 66 victims who will give impact statements before High Court this week, where Brenton Tarrant is being sentenced. 

Mr Fouda was at the pulpit on 15 March last year when the Australian gunman burst into the house of worship, opening fire.

On Monday, Mr Fouda was just metres from the gunman, telling him his wanton murder achieved the opposite of what he wanted.

"The actions of the terrorist have changed Christchurch and New Zealand," Mr Fouda said.

"There has been much change within our community but I love New Zealand and our society showed love and support for us.

"Al Noor Mosque has grown and I believe our community is much more connected with people in Christchurch, New Zealand and worldwide.

"If you have done anything ... the community is closer with your evil actions."

Survivors and relatives of victims of the Christchurch shooting speak of their grief in court

In the days after the attack, both Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre were overwhelmed with support from locals, with assembled flowers and tributes stretching for hundreds of metres around the buildings.

Mr Fouda said it "gave power to all of us Muslims and the non-Muslims in New Zealand".

"New Zealand is seen by the world as a model of compassion, love and harmony ... and the terrorist was seen as a criminal," Mr Fouda said.

Mr Fouda's testimony was followed by several other victims; some who allowed their statements to be read by victim support officers.

Speaking through an interpreter, Khaled Majed Abdel Rauf Alnobani revealed the unshakeable trauma that remains with him after escaping from Al Noor mosque.

"I have felt disappointment for not being able to help more people. What happened was so unexpected and I still feel shocked by what I saw," he said.

"I have not returned to regular work because I am struggling with everyday life.

"My behaviour has changed because I have lost some of my friends.

"If I think about everything that happened I am always sad. I'm depressed. I'm frustrated that someone has taken away my happiness."

Before leaving his station, Mr Alnobani looked towards the gunman and delivered his own riposte.

"We have become more united. You have made that. And thank you for that," he said.

Family members of victims arrive outside the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Source: AAP

'Like the tight pain of labour'

Earlier, Maysoon Salama, the mother of Ata Mohammad Ata Elayyan who was killed at Al Noor mosque, paid an emotional tribute to his slain son.

"His name means a gift from Allah and he was the best gift to us for 33 years," she said through teary eyes.

"My family and I have been very devastated by the inhumane murder of our precious son.

"Losing my son is like feeling the tight pain of labour again and again."

Like many, Ms Salama eyeballed the gunman during parts of her address.

"May you get the severest punishment for your evil act in this life," she said.

"You transgressed and you thought you could break us. You failed miserably. We remain stronger in our belief of Islam."

The hearing continues this week, with the gunman likely to be given life imprisonment when Justice Cameron Mander hands down his sentence on Thursday.

For people in Australia, mental health support is available at Beyond Blue.org.auEmbrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Published 24 August 2020 at 12:06pm, updated 24 August 2020 at 3:20pm
Source: AAP-SBS