The gunman, 29-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant killed 51 worshippers in a mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques in the city of Christchurch last year.

Abdul Aziz (R), who was hailed a hero when he chased the gunman from the Linwood mosque, gestures towards Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant during Tarrant's third day in court for a sentence hearing in Christchurch on August 26, 2020.
Abdul Aziz (R), who was hailed a hero when he chased the gunman from the Linwood mosque, gestures towards Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant during Tarrant's third day in court for a sentence hearing in Christchurch on August 26, 2020. (AFP)

"You should thank God on that day I didn't catch you".

Those are the words of one of the heroes of the Christchurch terror attack as he confronted gunman Brenton Tarrant on the third day of sentencing hearings on Wednesday.

"You know this face. The one who chased you out," Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah told Tarrant, who is facing a life sentence without parole for his killing spree.

The Australian father-of-four told the court how he offered himself as a target to protect worshippers inside a mosque where Tarrant had opened fire without warning.

In all, 51 people were killed in the attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15 last year.

The father of slain three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, the youngest victim in the New Zealand mosque shootings told the white supremacist who gunned down his son that "true justice" awaited him in the next life and it would be more severe than prison.

"You have killed my son and to me it is as if you have killed the whole of New Zealand," Aden Ibrahim Diriye said in a statement read by a family member during a sentencing hearing for Brenton Tarrant on Wednesday.

"Know that true justice is waiting for you in the next life and that will be far more severe. I will never forgive you for what you have done."

Tarrant, a 29-year-old white supremacist Australian, is scheduled to be sentenced this week after pleading guilty to 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the 2019 shooting rampage in the city of Christchurch which he live-streamed on Facebook.

READ MORE: New Zealand mosque attacker fires lawyers to represent himself at hearing

A murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The judge can impose a life term without parole, a sentence that has never been used in New Zealand.

Between forgiveness and grief

Survivors and families of victims have addressed the court this week and many have urged the judge to sentence Tarrant to the most severe sentence.

Diriye, a refugee from Somalia who moved to New Zealand 25 years ago, told the court his son had been robbed of a future.

"He used to engage and play with the police; at home he would run around the house pretending to be a cop and wear police uniform.

We thought one day he might become a police officer," he said in his statement.

READ MORE: Families of Christchurch victims confront mosque gunman

A hero's tale 

While most of Tarrant's victims were at Al Noor mosque, including Mucaad Ibrahim, he killed seven people at the Linwood mosque.

The casualty list would likely have been higher if it weren't for Wahabzadah, who was commended for his courage on Wednesday by High Court Judge Cameron Mander after confronting Tarrant at the Linwood mosque.

After shots rang out in the mosque, Wahabzadah engaged Tarrant outside, throwing a bank card machine at him and drawing fire when the gunman returned to his car, loaded with high-powered weapons, ammunition and incendiary devices.

"I didn't want him to go inside the mosque because we had 80 to100 people praying at that time," Aziz said on Wednesday.

Aziz took cover, and weaved through parked cars, to stop Tarrant getting a clear shot. Tarrant's plan frustrated, he left quickly in his car and was detained en route to a third mosque.

READ MORE: New Zealand court hears how mosque shooter planned deadly attacks

'Never walk free'

Ahad Nabi, who lost his 71-year-old father in the attack, stared at Tarrant before delivering a passionate statement, demanding that Tarrant should "never walk free" for his cowardly actions on March 15, 2019.

"You are weak, a sheep with a wolf's jacket on for only 10 minutes of your whole life," said Nabi, referring to the shooting rampage.

"This world was created with colour, a peasant like you will never change the human race."

Sara Qasem, daughter of victim Abdelfattah Qasem, said she would miss smelling her father's garden sauce cooking and wanted to hear his stories about the "olive trees in Palestine".

"You made a choice here – a conscious, stupid, irresponsible, cold-blooded, selfish, disgusting, heinous, evil choice," Qasem said, looking at Tarrant, seated and surrounded by guards.

Tarrant, who is representing himself, will not speak ahead of his sentencing, court officials said on Wednesday. He has directed a lawyer assisting the court to make a brief statement on his behalf. 

The judge has previously said sentencing would not occur before Thursday.

Prosecutors have told the court that Tarrant wanted to instil fear in those he described as invaders and that he carefully planned the attacks to cause maximum carnage.

Live reporting from the courtroom was banned, and other restrictions were put in place on what the media could report.

The hearings were adjourned until Thursday morning.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies