Students on standby to offer aroha to mosque victims

1:44 pm on 27 August 2020

Warning - This story discusses details of the 15 March Christchurch mosque shootings.

Canterbury's Student Volunteer Army has gathered outside the High Court in Christchurch to show solidarity and support for the victims of the 15 March mosque attacks.

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Some of the students hold signs of solidarity outside the High Court in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

A sentence is soon to be imposed on the final day of the hearing - the gunman is facing life in prison.

Brenton Tarrant, 29, is being sentenced on 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge of terrorism. He has pleaded guilty to all the charges.

Dozens of students are holding signs with hearts and supportive messages - the first thing victims will see when they step outside court at the end of the four-day sentencing hearing.

Volunteer Army president Sam Johnson said it's about showing aroha.

"The Student Volunteer Army got a call yesterday from one of the families, who were inside, of the victims and said 'could you arrange a group of people to come do a peaceful show of aroha and love following the hearing' and so we just wanted to assemble with some signs, some waiata, some haka and just say thank you to them and say we're here supporting you still."

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The SVA is keen to show the mosque victims the community still supports them. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

A steady stream of people started entering the High Court from the time the doors opened at 8am today.

Long-stemmed white roses were handed out to the victims as they arrived in court. They were donated as a gesture of support by two women.

The last group of 93 victims read their impact statements yesterday afternoon - a marked increase on the 66 that were expected.

Many urged Justice Mander to impose a life sentence without parole on Tarrant. Among those seeking the term is Sheik Hasan Rubel who was shot three times at Al Noor Mosque.

He told RNZ outside court today: "Justice will happen but my brothers and sisters who died - they will never come back. I want the toughest form of punishment to happen and then nobody ever think about doing a stupid thing like that."

Sheikh Hasan Rubel was shot three times during the attack at Al Noor mosque.

Sheik Hasan Rubel is among those pushing for a life without parole sentence for convicted killer and terrorist Brenton Tarrant. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

Meanwhile, some of the Christchurch mosque victims returning to this country for the terrorist's sentencing have not been able to go to court after two of them tested positive for Covid-19.

A government spokesperson said the cases are from two separate groups in managed isolation.

One person tested positive on 14 August and the other on 22 August.

Both were moved to the quarantine hotel in Auckland along with the rest of their group, who are considered to be close contacts.

The spokesperson said two other victims who are also returning residents have not finished their 14 days' managed isolation because of flights being delayed and will unfortunately also miss the sentencing.

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