Christchurch mosque attack sentencing: Terrorist appears shaken as victim tells her she forgives him

Warning: This article contains details that may disturb some people.

Twenty-four victims of mosque terrorist Brenton Harrison Tarrant have told his High Court sentencing about pain, shock, and loss - and sometimes how his hate-filled act has actually strengthened their community.

Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian, appeared to be paying attention as the victims - those he shot and the family members of those he murdered - read their statements in the High Court at Christchurch.

He appeared to be affected, partly covering his face and dabbing at an eye, as one woman told him she did not have hate or a yearning for revenge, and forgave him for the loss of her son. 

He sat manacled in the dock with five Corrections staff for his sentencing on 51 murder charges, 40 attempted murder charges, and committing a terrorist act. He pleaded guilty about a year after the March 15, 2019, attack on two Christchurch mosques.

Some of the victims began or ended their statements to the court with Arabic and Maori greetings, and some ended with "Kia Kaha" - stand strong.

Ziyaad Shah, a hydraulics technician, said he moved from Capetown with his family in 2008 to raise his children in a safe country. He was shot three times in the mosque attack, and now had pain and discomfort and constant headaches.

"Going back to Al Noor Mosque brings back all these horrific memories, every time," he told the court.

"There are a lot of things to be done in Aotearoa to stamp out extremism. There is no place for this," he said. 

Temel Atacocugu, who described himself as "a strong and stubborn Turkish man" said he was shot nine times and thought he was going to die. He survived by lying still as the gunman returned.

He has had several surgeries and more are scheduled. Six bullets have been removed from his body, but three remain. 

"The trauma will live with me forever," he said.

Tarrant appeared to react for the first time as a woman from Iraq, Janna Ezat, who has been in New Zealand since 1997, told about the loss of her son. She said: "He didn't have an enemy in the world, until the day he died".

"I decided to forgive you because I don't have hate or revenge," she told Tarrant. She quoted an Islamic saying, "If you are able to forgive, forgive."

Tarrant appeared shaken as she said she forgave him, as he covered the lower part of his face with his hand, and then dabbed at an eye. 

A 49-year-old lecturer, Mazharuddin Syed Ahmed, married with two children, said he had not been injured but he had seen people killed in the shooting. 

"People in New Zealand should not feel bad, because there has been so much kindness, support, and aid." But he told Tarrant, "No-one will remember you with joy".

Some victims said that Tarrant's mass shooting had had the opposite effect of what he intended because it had actually strengthened their community and its support. 

The sentencing continues on Tuesday.