Canada sentences man who killed 6 in mosque

Frederick Owens
February 10, 2019

A Canadian man who gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017 was sentenced to life in prison on Friday, although he will be eligible for parole after 40 years.

As he read out portions of his 246-page ruling over several hours, Huot said the attack was a hate crime motivated by a "visceral hatred for immigrants who are Muslim", local reporters said from the courtroom.

Alexandre Bissonnette, 29, pleaded guilty last March to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder. His lawyer had argued the sentences should be served concurrently, making him eligible for parole after 25 years.

He will be allowed to go before the Parole Board of Canada after serving 40 years, ruled Superior Court Justice Francois Huot on Friday - in a decision that left survivors and families feeling "disappointed", "dismayed" and "gutted", CBC reported.

The longest sentences to date in Canada is 75 years without parole, which has been handed down in five cases - all involving triple murders.

"Charter challenges to the 2011 provisions had previously been denied on the basis that the judge was not forced to increase parole ineligibility for multiple murders", he wrote in an email.

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The Criminal Code was amended in 2011 to allow a judge to impose consecutive sentences in cases of multiple murder, but it was clear as Huot spent almost six hours reading the decision that he was wrestling with the constitutionality of the provision.

In March, Bissonnette admitted to killing Khaled Belkacemi, 60, Azzedine Soufiane, 57, Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, Aboubaker Thabti, 44, and Ibrahima Barry, 39, in the January attack.

Bissonnette also told a psychiatrist that he regretted not killing more people.

While underscoring the brutality of the attack, Justice Huot suggested that such a harsh sentence would be excessive by denying the defendant the hope of ever leaving prison.

"He really backed himself up, to use the expression", he said. More than 50 people were at the Islamic Cultural Centre in January 2017 when he began shooting during evening prayers. In a statement read in court, he said he was "neither a terrorist nor an Islamophobe", but rather someone who was "overcome by fear, by negative thoughts and a sort of frightful kind of despair".

He also told police that he felt horrified about previous attacks like the Parliament Hill shooting and felt he needed to take action against Muslims, saying he didn't want the "Islamist attacks" happening around the world to happen here in Canada.

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