Montreal

Survivors of mosque shooting call for maximum sentence

Said El-Amari, one of the survivors of the Quebec City mosque shooting, says he is frightened by the thought his children could one day live in a society where Alexandre Bissonnette would walk freely.

Alexandre Bissonnette should never walk free, victims tell court

Said Akjour, like other survivors of the Quebec mosque shooting who testified on Tuesday, does not wish to see gunman Alexandre Bissonnette released from prison. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Said El-Amari says he is frightened by the thought his children could one day live in a society where Alexandre Bissonnette would walk freely.

"I am asking you, Your Honour, to do what is necessary so this does not happen," El-Amari told Quebec Superior Court Justice François Huot on Tuesday, on the fifth day of sentencing arguments for the Quebec City mosque shooter.

One of the six counts of attempted murder to which Bissonnette pleaded guilty was for El-Amari, who was in an induced coma for a full month after the Jan. 29, 2017 attack.

Bissonnette also pleaded guilty in March to six counts of first-degree murder.

Huot must decide whether to sentence Bissonnette to consecutive periods of parole ineligibility, which would mean he'd have to serve up to 150 years in prison before he could apply to be freed.

His legal team is hoping the judge makes the six terms of parole ineligibility concurrent, which would see Bissonnette eligible to apply for parole after 25 years. 

El-Amari, who was shot in the abdomen and in the knee, has been present for every step of the sentencing hearing, seated in the middle of the courtroom, surrounded by friends.

He said every new piece of evidence presented by the Crown prosecutor has gutted him, as he realized there is "this kind of twisted individual living here in Quebec." 

Said El-Amari was shot in the abdomen and the knee and was in an induced coma for a full month after the Jan. 29, 2017 attack. (Submitted)

El-Amari said seeing Bissonnette's collection of firearms — photos of which were produced in court — was also deeply disturbing.

"When I buy my children a water gun, I feel remorse. And to see people with a war arsenal in their home … I can't understand," El-Amari told Huot.

On Tuesday, a report from Bissonnette's prison social worker revealed the 28-year-old gunman had wanted to carry out a mass murder since adolescence and "wished he could have killed more."

Bissonnette has also said he regretted having done "something so senseless."

Rise in Islamophobia

El-Amari asked the judge to deliver a sentence that would serve as an example for anyone "who tries to attack the physical safety of those who choose to live in this society."

He also condemned the gradual rise in Islamophobia he has witnessed, from the driver's seat of his taxi, since 9/11. 

Despite this, he said he never thought he'd see a terrorist attack in Quebec City or that he'd see one of his friends gunned down in front of him.

Another survivor, Saïd Akjour, testified he also felt welcome in Quebec since arriving in 2007.

That all changed the night he attended prayers at the Sainte-Foy mosque. The attack, which lasted less than two minutes, felt like hours, Akjour said.

He recalled seeing a look of determination on Bissonnette's face.

"He carried out his crime cold-bloodedly, like he was playing a video game," he told Huot.

Abdelkrim Hassane, who was killed in the shooting, was described by his widow, Louiza Mohamed Said, as a loving father who likely thought of his three daughters during his final moments. (Submitted by Zahra Boukersi )

The 45-year-old only spoke the assailant's name once, when he told the judge he now has trouble interacting with people named Alexandre, even if he knows they aren't guilty of anything.

Whether at the library, Tim Hortons or a grocery store, he now constantly looks for an exit plan.

"I imagine all the scenarios. If there are children, I wonder how I can protect them," Akjour explained.

Like El-Amari, Akjour does not wish to see Bissonnette released from prison. He told reporters outside the courtroom that if the death penalty was still applicable in Canada, he would wish it would be applied.

"A person who takes away a life doesn't deserve to live," he said.

'Second death'

Louiza Mohamed Said, who also spoke Tuesday, was the first widow to explain how her husband's death has affected her life and the lives of her three daughters.

Reading from a prepared statement, she said that she had no intention of forgiving the man who "killed her life companion without mercy."

She described Abdelkrim Hassane as a loving father who likely thought of his girls during his final moments.

"My younger daughter will have no memory of her father, and this so unfair. So unfair," she said.

Alexandre Bissonnette, seen here the day after the shooting, said he 'wished he could have killed more' people at the mosque, according to a prison social worker. (Sûreté du Québec/Canadian Press)

Mohamed Said asked the judge to render a sentence that would clearly condemn terrorism and Islamophobia on Canadian soil.

She said Bissonnette's release would be a second death for the victims.

"I implore you, preserve the memory of our husbands," Mohamed Said said.

"Do everything that is in your power to prevent a drama like this from happening again, and may the one responsible for this serve as an example."

Sentencing hearings will continue in Quebec Superior Court on Wednesday.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated that Bissonnette is facing consecutive life sentences. In fact, he will only receive one life sentence — at issue is whether the judge will decide to make his periods of parole ineligibility consecutive or concurrent.
    Feb 07, 2019 2:46 PM ET

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