Hope held pleas will bring clo­sure

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - DAISY HUD­SON

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

Mustafa Boz­tas

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