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New Zealand mosque shooter won't speak at court sentencing

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Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, sits in the dock on day three at the Christchurch High Court for sentencing after pleading guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. More than 60 survivors and family members will confront the New Zealand mosque gunman this week when he appears in court to be sentenced for his crimes in the worst atrocity in the nation's modern history. (John Kirk-Anderson/Pool Photo via AP)

CHRISTCHURCH – On a day when the poetic words of love from a daughter to her murdered father brought many people to tears in a New Zealand courtroom, the white supremacist who killed him and 50 other worshippers at two mosques said he wouldn't speak before he is sentenced.

Gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant had earlier pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism for the March 2019 attacks. After earlier firing his lawyers and deciding to defend himself, he could have spoken on the final day of his sentencing hearing, scheduled for Thursday.

But the 29-year-old Australian told the judge Wednesday he didn't plan to say anything and instead a standby lawyer would make a short statement on his behalf.

Over the first three days of the hearing, 90 survivors and family members told the judge about the pain and aftermath of the attacks. Many said Justice Cameron Mander should hand down the maximum available sentence — life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The hearing has provided some degree of catharsis. Some chose to yell at the gunman and give him the finger. Others called him a monster, a coward, a rat. Some sung verses from the Quran or addressed him in Arabic. A few spoke softly to Tarrant, saying they forgave him.

Sara Qasem spoke about her beloved father.

She said she wonders if, in his last moments, he 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.”