Widow of Quebec City mosque victim begs judge to give shooter an 'exemplary' punishment

The widow of one of the men killed last year in the Quebec City Mosque shooting spoke at the shooter's sentencing hearing Tuesday, imploring the judge to hand down a strict sentence.

Louiza Mohamed Said calls on judge to issue a harsh sentence to 'forever preserve the memory of our deceased'

Louiza Mohamed Said became a widow on Jan. 29, 2017. Her husband, Abdelkrim Hassane, was killed in the Quebec City mosque shooting. She asked the judge to give his murderer an "exemplary" punishment. (Julia Page/CBC)

Sentencing hearings are underway in Quebec City for Alexandre Bissonnette, the man who pleaded guilty to last year's fatal mosque shooting that left six men dead and several others wounded.

The 28-year-old pleaded guilty in March to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder.

Each first-degree murder conviction carried an automatic sentence of life in prison without eligibility for parole for 25 years.

If Justice François Huot hands down consecutive sentences, it would mean Bissonnette would never get out of prison.

This week, the judge heard victim impact statements from some survivors of the shooting and from family members of some of the victims.

On Tuesday, Louiza Mohamed Said, widow of Abdelkrim Hassane, read her statement through heavy sobs. The two had been together for 18 years before his death and had three daughters, ages 10, nine and two.

Here is her statement, translated from French.

I am Mrs. Mohamed Said Louiza, widow of Mr. Hassane Abdelkrim, may God have his soul, one of the six deceased in the Quebec mosque killing.

I would first like to thank you, your honour, for this opportunity through which I will have the possibility to share with you my thoughts and feelings. Allow me as well, your honour, to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of our Crown prosecutors, from the first moments that misfortune struck us, without forgetting the municipal police forces. I would like, as well, to thank the journalists, present here today, without whom our message would have no impact.

My statement, your honour, is based on three points. The first point concerns my opinion regarding the forgiveness asked by the murderer of my husband. The second point relates to my anxieties caused by the murder of my husband. Finally, the last point of my statement relates to my expectations of this encounter.

With respect to the forgiveness asked by the perpetrator of the murderous attack of Jan. 29, 2017, I think that forgiving he who assassinated, without mercy and with fury, my life companion and the father of my three daughters, is not my major concern at this time and in the time to come.

My youngest will have no memory of her father and that is so unfair!- Louiza Mohamed Said, widow of Abdelkrim Hassane

The day of Jan. 29 was supposed to be an ordinary day. I was far from imagining that my life would be turned upside down forever. I remember just after lunch, Abdelkrim had shown his daughters a video of a sick, courageous, little boy. He said to the girls, "I want you to be courageous like this little boy." It was as if he sensed his death. A few hours later, Abdelkrim had gone out for his Sunday jog and then to the mosque for his evening prayer, his last, unfortunately. Abdelkrim was a man who was devout, decent and sincere. He was also convivial and full of humour. Everyone appreciated him.

At around 7 p.m., I started to worry about Abdelkrim, given that he was running later than usual. In the meantime, a Quebecoise friend from Montreal had called me to ask if my husband had gone to the mosque and she asked me to turn on the TV. That was the moment that I understood that something bad had happened to Abdelkrim. One of his friends came over afterwards to take me to the hospital while telling me that Abdelkrim was injured, which was not exactly true.

Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, as one of the six men murdered last january in a Quebec City mosque. He had a wife and three daughters. (Facebook)
Once at the hospital, the doctor asked me several questions and eventually told me Abdelkrim was indeed dead. I begged him to do something to treat him. I was ready to give a kidney or whatever else was needed to save him. Alas, it was too late. I thought I was living a nightmare. I felt as though everything around me abruptly collapsed. 

Dejected, I returned home and I still couldn't believe that Abdelkrim was indeed dead. I had to be strong for my daughters. I thought about what words I would use to tell them the news without shocking them too much. Believe me, nothing is more difficult than telling little girls about the death of their father. I cried in silence, because I had to remain calm. I had to hide my sadness and my disarray so that they wouldn't suspect anything.

Once home, the eldest couldn't sleep; she had asked me where her father was. I told her he was with a friend and that he would be late. She had trouble breathing the moment her father was murdered. The next day, I brought my daughters to school and I was still reflecting on how to tell them the truth. How do you tell them they won't see their father anymore? I mustered up my courage and told the girls about the death of their father, all the while reminding them of his last words of advice — to be courageous.

Since his loss, nothing is like before, because nothing replaces the love and affection of a father, especially a father as loving as Abdelkrim. Chikibeille, les abeilles and bouboula — those were the nicknames he gave them. After that sad and unfortunate day, all the activities we organized, such as dances, picnics, or trips, all stopped. The many projects we had planned were annihilated. He won't be there to share in the joys and sorrows of his three daughters. He won't be present at their graduations or weddings. My youngest will have no memory of her father and that is so unfair.

Right now, I'm focusing all my efforts on the safety and well-being of of my daughters. What preoccupies me, right now and always, is how to remain strong to raise my three daughters and make them blossom in the absence of a loving father who only had eyes for his daughters.

What I care about, and what terrifies me the most, and which will until the end of my existence, is that the day will come where it will be announced that he who blackened our joys, oppressed our souls with an immense sadness and condemned our lives to an enduring pain, will see his sentence reduced or will be freed and, thereby, cleared of his atrocities. The coming of this day would be a second death for our victims and for those who were spared. The coming of that day would be a death with no peace for our departed.

Never could I have imagined the horror and panic that my husband lived in those last seconds before his death. But I am convinced of one thing: that all his thoughts were with his three daughters.

Your honour, I implore you, forever preserve the memory of our deceased and our victims; support our cause and that of millions of Canadians, the cause to condemn terrorism, Islamophobia and all forms of violence and hate at the heart of Canadian society.

I use the terms terrorism and Islamophobia, your honour, because I believe the assassin is one, in one way or another. He succeeded in making my daughters believe that in peaceful Canada and Quebec, welcoming and tolerant, there was a place for horror, violence and murderous intolerance. Since the killing on Jan. 29, 2017, my eldest daughter, aged 10 and a half, and my [other] daughter, aged nine, are terrified of the idea that their mother, being of the Muslim faith just as their deceased father was, risks suffering the same fate as their father.

I speak, your honour, of terrorism and Islamophobia because, I believe the killing of Jan. 29, 2017, is the deliberate concretisation of a hate crime aiming, on one hand, to terrify the Muslim community and, on the other, to affirm the categorical rejection of a principle in society: living together.

Your honour, I beg you to do all that is in your power so that such a tragedy never happens again and that the perpetrator of this hate crime be punished in an exemplary manner.

I implore you, your honour, to let justice and the appeasement within us prevail in this beautiful and majestic country that is Canada.

These are my thoughts and feelings that I wanted to express and share and that kept my mind and heart going during the tumultuous times of the hearing.

Thank you for your attention.

Translated by CBC reporter Sabrina Marandola