The poetic words of love from a daughter to her murdered father brought many people to tears in a New Zealand courtroom Wednesday during the sentencing hearing for the white supremacist who killed 51 worshippers at two mosques.
Sara Qasem said she wonders if, in his last moments, her father was frightened or in pain, and wishes she could have been there to hold his hand. She told the gunman to remember her dad’s name, Abdelfattah Qasem.
“All a daughter ever wants is her dad. I want to go on more road trips with him. I want to smell his garden-sourced cooking. His cologne,” she said. “I want to hear him tell me more about the olive trees in Palestine. I want to hear his voice. My dad’s voice. My baba’s voice.”
Qasem spoke on the third day of a four-day sentencing hearing for Brenton Harrison Tarrant, who carried out the attacks during Friday prayers in March 2019. The 29-year-old Australian has pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder, and terrorism.
The hearing has given a chance for some of the survivors and family members to confront Tarrant. Many have asked the judge to impose the maximum possible sentence – life without the possibility of parole.
Tarrant has shown little emotion during the sentencing. He has watched the speakers, occasionally giving a small nod or smirking at jokes made at his expense.
Qasem said Tarrant made a choice. “A conscious, stupid, irresponsible, cold-blooded, selfish, disgusting, heinous, foul, uninformed and evil choice,” she said.
She said she pitied Tarrant’s coarse and tainted heart, and his narrow view of the world that couldn’t embrace diversity.
“Take a look around this courtroom”, she said to the gunman. “Who is the ‘other’ here, right now, is it us, or is it you? I think the answer is pretty clear.” Qasem said that love will always win.
Tarrant is noticeably thinner than when he was first arrested. At the current hearing, he hasn’t shown the brazenness he did at his first court appearance the day after the attacks, when he made a hand gesture sometimes adopted by white supremacists.