Christchurch white supremacist gunman, Brenton Tarrant, jailed for life without parole

Christchurch white supremacist gunman, Brenton Tarrant, jailed for life without parole
Australian gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant (not pictured) received the maximum available sentence. (AFP)
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Updated 27 August 2020

Christchurch white supremacist gunman, Brenton Tarrant, jailed for life without parole

Christchurch white supremacist gunman, Brenton Tarrant, jailed for life without parole
  • Tarrant told he will spend the rest of his life behind bars
  • Families and survivors celebrate outside court, but still filled with grief

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND: The white supremacist responsible for an anti-Muslim shooting spree that left dozens dead, traumatising New Zealand and capturing the world’s attention was today sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, had pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act in relation to the massacre on March 15 last year that he livestreamed on Facebook.

“The trauma of March 15 is not easily healed but today I hope is the last where we have any cause to hear or utter the name of the terrorist behind it. His deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said after the sentencing.

The Muslim community in New Zealand reacts to the sentence, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comments. (AFP video)

The killings took place during Friday prayers at the city’s Linwood Islamic Centre and Al Noor Mosque, not far from the courthouse where this week’s four-day sentencing hearing took place.

Among the arsenal of weapons Tarrant brought with him to execute his meticulously planned attacks was a pump-action rifle he daubed with a Nazi-style SS symbol.

In his livestream, he described what was happening as a “firefight” as if the men, women and children he methodically picked off had somehow been in a position to defend themselves.

The prosecution had called for a whole-of-life sentence to reflect what it called the “calculated sadism and depravity” of the crimes.

Justice Cameron Mander agreed, describing Tarrant himself as “unusually racist” in his views and bereft of any remorse for his actions.

The moment the judge read out Tarrant's sentence. (AFP video)

“If not here, when?” he said of the whole-of-life sanction.

The judge said the penalty was required in order to fully denounce Tarrant’s actions and to fully hold an “entirely self-centred” offender accountable. The penalty also had a deterrent value and would protect the wider community.

Earlier, he asked Tarrant if he wished to say anything before the final sentencing. “No, thank you,” Tarrant replied, looking sallow and diminished in baggy prison overalls.

Today’s sentence is a first for New Zealand, which last executed a convict in 1961, before abolishing the death penalty in the late 1980s.

But the case itself has been a judicial novelty, too. The scale of the crime was without local precedent. So had been this week’s avalanche of victim-impact statements — chosen from among 200 submissions — and the wrenching effect on the wider culture.




Brenton Tarrant will spend the rest of his life behind bars. (AFP)

Justice Mander spoke of the grandparents who would never again see their grandchildren, wives who would never again hold hands with their husbands, the children who still ask when they would be seeing their vanished parents. In one of the cases, he noted with evident distaste, three of the family members of what had been a four-person household had perished at his hand.

Raf Manji, a former city councillor in Christchurch who has spent much of the past 17 months working with survivors and was in the court this week, told Arab News that the whole-of-life sentence was the only welcome outcome in such a horrendous case.

Speaking outside the courthouse, Manji said it was “really important for the families of the terrorized that this sentence has been without parole,” said Manji.

“This man will never be able to leave prison, and he will have to spend the rest of his life in a cell. As a punishment. And that is really important. Sometimes the punishment side of things can be a difficult thing, especially in more liberal societies, but it’s really important.”

Members of  New Zealand's Muslim community spoke outside the court after sentencing was served. (AFP video)

The 90 victim-impact testimonies given to the court during the sentencing had laid bare the terror that was caused by the defendant. Clearly, they also left their trace on the final deliberations.  

This week the defendant looked like “a shell of a man, and recalled Eichmann’s trial [in Jerusalem], you know in that ‘banality of evil’ sense,” when the appearance of the individual usually reminds us only that they are “ordinary people who have done terrible things,” Manji said.  

The unprecedented sentence was also welcomed in religious circles beyond the local Muslim community, including a statement issued immediately by the New Zealand Jewish Council saying no other minimum term would have reflected the gravity of the offence.

“The hearing has highlighted the stark contrast between the victims of this atrocity, who have shown the greatest strength and dignity, and the shooter, utterly lacking those qualities and indeed any semblance of contrition and humanity,” Juliet Moses, the council’s spokeswoman, said.


Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana
Updated 27 min 50 sec ago

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana
  • Police said Albanian man, 34, wound five people with knife attack in mosque in Tirana
  • Man was arrested by police that haven’t disclosed any motive for the attack

TIRANA: An Albanian man with a knife attacked five people Monday at a mosque in the capital of Tirana, according to police.
A police statement said Rudolf Nikolli, 34, entered the Dine Hoxha mosque in downtown Tirana about 2:30 p.m. and wounded five people with a knife.
Police reacted immediately and took him into custody.
The five wounded, all men aged from 22 to 35, were taken to a hospital and police said they are not in life-threatening situations.
Police have not disclosed any motive for the attack. They and prosecutors are investigating the case.
Ahmed Kalaja, imam of the mosque, said the armed man attacked worshipers and staff, and added he hoped it was “not a terrorist attack.”
The mosque at the time was filled with believers during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Albania’s 2.8 million people are predominantly Muslim with smaller Christian Catholic and Orthodox communities that have gotten along well with each other.
Police said Nikolli was from the northern town of Burrel and his religious background was not yet clear.


Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations

Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations
Updated 19 April 2021

Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations

Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations
  • Second round of negotiations to take place Monday morning
  • Security was beefed up in capital Islamabad overnight with heavy contingents of police

ISLAMABAD: Eleven security personnel taken hostage on Sunday by the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) religious party during police clashes in Lahore were released in the early hours of Monday morning following the first round of negotiations with the government, interior minister Sheikh Rasheed said in a video announcement on Twitter.
Rioting by the rightwing group has rocked the country since Monday last, after TLP chief Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore a day after he threatened the government with rallies if it did not expel the French envoy to Islamabad over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in France last year.
The protests paralyzed major cities and highways, leading to the deaths of six policemen, according to the government, with thousands of TLP workers under arrest, police say. The riots also prompted the French embassy to recommend all its nationals temporarily leave the country last week.
“Talks have started with the TLP. The first round of negotiations went well and the second round will take place after sehr,” Rashid said.
“They [TLP] have released 11 abducted policemen hostages and have gone into the Rehmatul Lil Alameen Mosque. The police have also stepped back,” he said.


“These negotiations were held successfully by the Punjab government. We hope that the second meeting after sehr will also be successful and matters will be amicably resolved with the TLP,” he added.
Earlier, on Sunday evening, Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry said in a statement the government believed in negotiating but wouldn’t be blackmailed.
“The government believes in negotiations but can’t be blackmailed,” he said.
“The operation was started after police and Rangers personnel were kidnapped. The state can’t be blackmailed by a proscribed armed outfit. [Prime Minister] Imran Khan has the strongest affection with the Prophet (PBUH) and he has talked about this at every forum.”
Earlier on Sunday, a police spokesman, Arif Rana, said the operation against the TLP had been halted as the attackers were armed with petrol bombs and a tanker with 50,000 liters of petrol.
By Sunday evening, he said the situation was “at a standstill” with protesters sitting on roadsides with sticks and petrol bombs in their hands and law enforcement personnel standing guard.
Last week, the interior ministry said it was moving to have the TLP party banned for attacking law enforcement forces and disrupting public life during its protests. The interior ministry’s decision has been approved by the federal cabinet but needs to be ratified by the Supreme Court for the TLP to be dissolved.
Talking to the media in Islamabad on Sunday, Ahmed said no negotiations were underway with the TLP.
“We tried to negotiate for two, three months with them but in vain. They are not ready to retreat from their agenda, so the government is left with no option but to establish the writ of the state,” the minister said.
Security was heightened overnight in the capital, Islamabad, the DIG operations tweeted Sunday evening.
In October 2020, protests broke out in several Muslim countries over France’s response to a deadly attack on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils during a civics lesson.
During similar protests in Pakistan, the government negotiated with the TLP and met a number of its demands, including that it would debate expelling the French ambassador in parliament.
A deadline to make that parliamentary move expires on April 20.


Thailand reports 1,390 new coronavirus infections, 3 new deaths

Thailand reports 1,390 new coronavirus infections, 3 new deaths
Updated 19 April 2021

Thailand reports 1,390 new coronavirus infections, 3 new deaths

Thailand reports 1,390 new coronavirus infections, 3 new deaths
  • Three deaths were reported

BANGKOK: Thailand reported 1,390 new coronavirus cases on Monday, slowing from six days of record highs, amid a third wave of infections in the Southeast Asian country.
Three deaths were reported. The new cases took the total number of infections to 43,742, with 104 deaths.


France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants
Updated 19 April 2021

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants
  • Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions “progressively” put in place by then, the government said. 

The flight suspension for Brazil will be lifted followed by “drastic measures” for entering France from all four countries, plus the French territory of Guiana, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The four countries “are the most dangerous in terms of the number of variants that exist and in the evolution of the pandemic in these countries,” Le Drian said Saturday on the France 3 television station.

The list of countries subject to tougher border checks could be extended, he said.

Under the new restrictions, travelers must provide an address for where they plan to observe the 10-day confinement period and police will make visits and fine those who are found in violation, the government said.

Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus. 

Travelers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours instead of 72 hours before they boarded a flight, or a negative antigen test less than 24 hours

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A variant first identified in England spread to continental Europe and is now responsible for about 80 percent of the virus cases in France, while the variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4% of French infections, Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week.


Coronavirus likely to keep mutating: Scientists

Coronavirus likely to keep mutating: Scientists
Updated 18 April 2021

Coronavirus likely to keep mutating: Scientists

Coronavirus likely to keep mutating: Scientists
  • Warning comes amid fears that new, India variant could become dominant
  • Virologist: “We’re still early on in the lifetime of this virus as a human pathogen”

LONDON: Humanity is engaged in an “arms race” with the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2, and its capacity to adapt and evolve remains unknown and should not be underestimated, scientists have warned.
“I think it’d be a brave person to say that the virus is nearing the end of its evolutionary route and can’t go any further,” Prof. Deenan Pillay, a virologist at University College London, told The Independent.
“We’re still early on in the lifetime of this virus as a human pathogen. It normally takes many years for viruses, once they cross the species barrier, to really optimize themselves to be able to replicate well within humans.”
Pillay’s warning comes amid fears that a new strain of Sars-CoV-2, known as the India variant — which has caused a surge in the number of cases of COVID-19 — could become a dominant global strain in the coming weeks.
The India variant is known to carry two mutations that could reduce the efficacy of a number of COVID-19 vaccines.
Whilst that has not yet occurred, the nature and speed at which the virus has mutated thus far, including in the form of the South African and UK variants, has caused alarm among the scientific community that the positive impact of vaccine rollouts could be undone in the near future.
Specifically, scientists worry about Sars-CoV-2’s ability to alter spike proteins, used to attach onto human cells, through mutations.
The spike proteins, referred to by Pillay as “keys” to entering human receptor cells, are the mechanism through which most of the world’s successful COVID-19 vaccines look to attack the virus, by training various immune system responses to identify them. 
One such mutation, E484K, has been found in the South Africa and UK variants. The India variant carries a similar mutation, E484Q.
The fear is that by altering their proteins, these variants could render them less visible to the immune system of vaccinated people, making it harder to ward off infection.
Aris Katzourakis, professor of evolution and genomics at Oxford University, said beyond altering the spike protein, mutations such as E484K could “unlock a whole load of other mutations elsewhere in the spike” that have not yet been identified by scientists, with unknown repercussions for the severity of the virus.
“E484K took about 12 months before it became something we cared about. Presumably, 12 months from now, there’ll be another one or two that are just as important,” he told The Independent. 
Prof. Stephen Griffin, a virologist at Leeds University, said he believes that rather than continue to mutate indefinitely, there “will be a limit on how far the spike protein can evolve. But I’m not sure we can accurately determine what that limit may be at this point.”