Mosque victim's sister says pursuit of truth 'shared responsibility'

By Anneke Smith for RNZ

A woman whose brother was murdered in the Christchurch terror attacks says "the pursuit of truth" is not just the responsibility of the affected whānau.

Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein died at Masjid Al Noor, sat through the first week of the largest coronial inquiry in New Zealand history.

Speaking to RNZ before flying up to Auckland for the second week of the inquest, she said it had been an exhausting and frustrating time.

Aya Al-Umari with her brother Hussein who died at Masjid Al Noor in 2019.
Aya Al-Umari with her brother Hussein who died at Masjid Al Noor in 2019. Photo credit: Supplied/ Aya Al-Umari

"What's evident to me sitting in the public gallery... is that there is an underlying frustration as a result of some of the witness testimonies.

"You've got a range of 'no answer' responses, lapses of memory and 'hindsight' responses. I don't know how I feel about that, but generally, it feels like it's side-stepping responsibility and accountability."

Despite this, Al-Umari said she still had faith more information would come out about how her brother and others murdered in the terror attacks died, and how similar deaths could be prevented in the future.

"Throughout this process and leading up to the inquest, there are things that I have learnt about my brother Hussein and I'm hoping the coroner will determine exactly what the circumstances of his death were.

"And in time I'm hoping that I'll be able to share these and give Hussein, my brother, the bravery that he deserves really."

Al-Umari said she hopes that whatever recommendations the coroner makes - which are not expected until 2024 - will be "taken up immediately" and said New Zealanders have a collective responsibility to get to the bottom of what happened.

"The pursuit of truth isn't just [the] affected whānau's responsibility.

"In my opinion it's not just my burden to carry. We owe it to my brother and we collectively owe it to each person that's impacted by this. It's a shared responsibility."