Bissonnette judge's 'unusual' sentencing decision likely to be appealed

Alexandre Bissonnette

Bissonnette pleaded guilty last March to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder after he walked into the mosque during evening prayers on January 29, 2017 and opened fire.

Several people in the Quebec City courtroom wept as the judge read a detailed account of the shooter's actions on the night of the crime.

The attack at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in the quiet Sainte-Foy neighborhood of Canada's oldest city, he concluded, will go down in Canadian history "written in blood" as one of this country's worst tragedies.

"I hope that justice will be served and the sentence will reflect the crime that was committed", said Huot, La Presse Canadienne reported.

He walked into the mosque at the Islamic Cultural Centre during evening prayers on January 29, 2017 and opened fire.

The six men killed were Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Aboubaker Thabti and Azzeddine Soufiane.

While reading his sentencing decision, the Quebec Superior Court judge said: "His crimes were truly motivated by race and a visceral hatred towards Muslim immigrants", but added that "punishment should not be vengeance".

Leila Nasr, spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), an advocacy group, told Middle East Eye that whatever the court's ruling would have been, it was "an incredibly hard day".

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Outside the courtroom, Aymen Derbali, who was left quadriplegic after the shooting, said he was "very upset and astonished" that Bissonnette did not get more time.

During the sentencing phase, investigators said Bissonnette's online activity showed he was fascinated by serial killers and the alt-right movement and was a fan of US President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

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

Under the new rules, Bissonnette could be sentenced to a life term with no chance of parole for 150 years.

The Conservative government of the day said the change was needed to bring an end to "discount sentences" for mass murderers.

The justice said that in the years leading up to the shooting, Bissonnette increasingly drank alcohol and experienced anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Bissonnette's lawyers had argued that if he was sentenced to 25 years consecutively for each murder it would amount to death by incarceration.

First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole before 25 years.

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