Quebec mosque shooter gets life, no parole for 40 years

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In this file photo taken on February 21, 2017 Alexandre Bissonnette, a suspect in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the court house in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. (AFP)
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This undated file selfie portrait sourced on social network on January 31, 2017 shows Alexandre Bissonnette. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2019
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Quebec mosque shooter gets life, no parole for 40 years

  • As the 246-page verdict was read over a six-hour period, Bissonnette sat quietly in the packed courtroom, while his parents and several friends and family of the victims wiped tears from their eyes
  • The victims were all dual nationals who emigrated to Canada over recent decades: two Algerians, two Guineans, a Moroccan and a Tunisian

QUEBEC CITY: A 29-year-old who shot dead six worshipers at a Quebec City mosque in the worst anti-Muslim attack in the West got life in prison Friday.
Alexandre Bissonnette will have to wait 40 years — longer than usual — before he can apply for parole.
In his decision, Judge Francois Huot rejected a prosecution request for a 150-year sentence, which would have been the longest ever in Canada, saying “subjecting a murder to a sentence that exceeds his life expectancy” would be a cruel and unusual punishment under Canadian law.
But he also noted the killer’s “visceral hatred of Muslim immigrants.”
“You killed six of your compatriots whose only crime was to be different than yourself,” Huot said in court.
“With your hatred and racism, you’ve ruined their lives, yours and your parents’, and the crime you’ve done deserves the greatest denunciation,” he said.
A university student at the time of the shooting, Bissonnette appeared to have been seduced by nationalist and supremacist ideologies into committing this “unjustified and deadly” massacre that sought to “undermine our fundamental societal values,” the judge said.
The attack at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center in the quiet Sainte-Foy neighborhood of Canada’s oldest city, he concluded, will go down in Canadian history “written in blood” as one of this country’s worst tragedies.
As the 246-page verdict was read over a six-hour period, Bissonnette sat quietly in the packed courtroom, gazing at his feet while his parents and several friends and family of the victims wiped tears from their eyes.

Outside the courtroom, Aymen Derbali, who was left quadriplegic in the shooting, said he was “very upset and astonished” that Bissonnette did not get more time.
“I had hoped for justice for the victims, for the people who died, and that the sentence reflected the seriousness of the crime,” he said.
“This was a very serious attack in a place of worship.”
Surrounded by members who lamented having to face Bissonnette at a parole hearing in the future and relive the tragedy, mosque president Boufeldja Benabdallah said: “We are completely stunned.”
On January 29, 2017, Bissonnette burst into the Quebec City mosque and unleashed a hail of bullets on the 40 men and four children who were chatting among themselves after evening prayers.
Security video footage showed a cold-blooded killer strategically and methodically firing dozens of shots, retreating to a safe area to reload his nine-millimeter pistol at least four times, “like he was playing a video game,” recounted one witness.
Six men were killed and five were seriously injured.
The victims were all dual nationals who emigrated to Canada over recent decades: two Algerians, two Guineans, a Moroccan and a Tunisian.
They were a scholar, a butcher, a daycare operator, a food industry worker, a public servant and a computer programmer — all connected by faith.
Introverted and educated, Bissonnette had been described after his arrest as a white supremacist opposed to Muslim immigration but not affiliated with any group.
At the start of his trial in 2017, he said he had been suicidal, “swept away by fear and by horrible despair,” and deeply regretted his “unforgivable” actions.
He also told the court he hoped for a “ray of hope at the end of the long, dark tunnel in which I lost myself on January 29.”
Survivors testified about those harrowing moments under fire and their suffering since the shooting: one leaving a trail of smeared blood on the floor while dragging himself to a hiding spot, another still feeling pain from bullet debris left in his leg after surgery.
Many said they are struggling with anxiety, including one man who said he now plots a safe exit whenever he goes out to a coffee shop or a store.


Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

Updated 24 min 27 sec ago
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Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

  • Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas
  • The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative nation of 160 million people

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Dozens of protesters gathered in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to demand justice for an 18-year-old woman who died after being set on fire for refusing to drop sexual harassment charges against her Islamic school’s principal.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas. When she refused, she said her hands were tied and she was doused in kerosene and set alight.
Rafi told the story to her brother in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and he recorded her testimony on his mobile phone. She died four days later in a Dhaka hospital with burns covering 80% of her body.
The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment and violence are often unreported, victims are intimidated and the legal process is often lengthy. Many avoid reporting to police because of social stigma.
“We want justice. Our girls must grow up safely and with dignity,” Alisha Pradhan, a model and actress, told The Associated Press during Friday’s demonstration. “We protest any forms of violence against women, and authorities must ensure justice.”
Tens of thousands of people attended Rafi’s funeral prayers in Feni, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised Rafi’s family when they met in Dhaka that those responsible would be punished.
At least 17 people, including students, have been arrested in connection with the case, said Banaj Kumar Majumder, the head of the Police Bureau of Investigation.
In late March, Rafi filed a complaint with police that the principal of her madrasa, or Islamic school, had called her into his office and touched her inappropriately and repeatedly. Her family agreed to help her to file the police complaint, which prompted police to arrest the principal, infuriating him and his supporters. Influential local politicians backed the principal, and ruling party members were also among the arrested.
Police said the arrested suspects told them during interrogations that the attack on Rafi was planned and ordered by the school’s principal from prison when his men went to see him. It was timed for daytime so that it would look like a suicide attempt, Majumder said.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Rafi’s family said that they had received death threats before the attack telling them to drop the case.
While Rafi’s case is now being treated with urgency, that wasn’t the case until her death.
A video taken on March 27 while Rafi reported the assault shows the local police chief registering her complaint but telling her that the incident was “not a big deal.” The chief was later removed from the police station for negligence in dealing with the case.
For Bangladeshi women, it is often not easy to file sensitive complaints with police. Victims often fear further harassment and bullying. Police also often show an unwillingness to investigate such cases and are often accused of being influenced by local politics or bribes.
But the call for dealing with violence against women, especially related to sexual harassment and assault, is also getting louder.
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation.”