Daughter of Quebec mosque victim expresses incomprehension at shooter's actions
Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, April 18, 2018 1:49PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 18, 2018 6:45PM EDT
QUEBEC -- Alexandre Bissonnette told police he'd feared for his family's safety, but the daughter of one of his shooting victims at the Quebec City mosque says it was her family that paid the price for that fear.
Megda Belkacemi testified at Bissonnette's sentencing hearing Wednesday her family hasn't been the same since her father, Khaled Belkacemi, was gunned down on Jan. 29, 2017.
She referred to comments Bissonnette made to a police investigator the day after the shooting, when he claimed he wanted to protect his family against terrorist attacks.
But it was Belkacemi's family, not Bissonnette's, that was attacked.
Bissonnette, 28, pleaded guilty last month to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder in the shooting.
Emotions have been running high at the hearing, where survivors and relatives of victims continued Wednesday to describe the impact the murderous rampage has had on their lives.
In the morning, Belkacemi told Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot her family left Algeria to avoid terrorist attacks, only to fall victim to violence in Canada.
Belkacemi, 29, said she can't understand how someone from a similar age and background as herself could commit such an atrocity.
Her mother, Safia Hamoudi, recalled desperately calling Quebec City hospitals in the hours following the shooting in the hope her husband was still alive.
"My life doesn't make sense any more," she said in a victim impact statement. "I have lost all my joy in life."
Hamoudi, a mother of three, said she's now afraid to return to the mosque because she worries she'll meet the same fate as her husband.
She described him as a warm, caring and peaceful man.
"I have a hard time accepting that he's dead from a gun," she said.
Her son, Amir Belkacemi, called Bissonnette "a monster."
"I don't think monsters have their place among us, among those who cherish their humanity," he said.
Ibrahim Bekkari Sbai, who was at the mosque the night of the attack, told the court he couldn't call Bissonnette a human being.
He was the first witness who looked at the gunman and addressed him directly.
Sbai said Bissonnette wasn't properly educated and suggested his father was partly responsible for the shootings.
Huot quickly interrupted Sbai's testimony, telling the man there was no evidence Bissonnette was poorly educated.
The gunman's parents, Huot said, were "collateral victims," who, according to him, "are suffering enormously from the situation."
Bissonnette began crying and the judge suspended the hearing.
The defence is asking for a life sentence of 25 years for Bissonnette, while the Crown hasn't yet said what it will recommend.
Bissonnette can face as much as 150 years behind bars.