Hope held pleas will bring closure
GUILTY pleas from the man responsible for the Christchurch terror attack have brought some relief, and plenty of surprise, for one of his victims.
Dunedin man Mustafa Boztas was shot in the leg during the attack on the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.
He was in Turkey when he saw a message in a group chat with other survivors, which said Brenton Tarrant (29) had entered shock guilty pleas in the High Court at Christchurch yesterday morning.
Appearing from prison on a screen via audiovisual link, wearing a grey prison sweatshirt, Tarrant pleaded guilty to all 51 murder charges.
He also admitted 40 charges of attempted murder relating to the two attacks at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15 last year — and pleaded guilty to one charge of engaging in a terrorist act laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.
Speaking from Turkey, Mr Boztas said he had just finished speaking to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attacks when he saw the message.
‘‘I didn’t expect it, you know,’’ he said.
‘‘Knowing him, he was going to play it all the way. It was surprising.’’
He had mixed feelings about the pleas.
‘‘All this still can’t undo the damage he has brought on our community and the country of New Zealand.
‘‘But it gives me hope it will bring not only justice, but closure to those affected.’’
He wanted to thank the Government, and particularly Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, for ‘‘the love and togetherness’’ they had shown the Muslim community.
Mr Boztas had been visiting Turkey with family when the Covid19 pandemic struck, and he was staying there for the forseeable future.
He hoped to be back in New Zealand by June.
‘‘It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, as long as we can get justice.’’
Because of the hastily arranged nature of the High Court appearance yesterday, victims and their families were not able to be present in the courtroom.
The imams from the two mosques instead represented them.
Justice Cameron Mander convicted Tarrant on all charges and remanded him in custody to a nominal date of May 1, when it was expected that a sentencing date will be set — once coronavirusimposed court restrictions are eased.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday said it was disappointing for victims that they were not in court, in the same way the March 15 memorial had been cancelled due to the Covid19 outbreak.
‘‘Nothing will bring their loved ones back, but this is a small reprieve,’’ she said about the guilty pleas. — Additional reporting NZME