Quebec mosque attacker admits ‘senseless act’

Guilty plea means community does not have to relive horrific event
TORONTO, Canada: An ashamed Alexandre Bissonnette said Wednesday he is sorry for his “senseless act” of storming a Quebec City mosque in an armed attack early last year, killing six and wounding 19 others.
After changing his plea to guilty from an earlier plea of not guilty, the 28-year-old read from a written statement in a Quebec courtroom packed with the families of the victims, the survivors and supporters.
“I’d like to ask your forgiveness for all the harm I caused you, even though I know what I did is unforgivable,” Bissonnette said.
“In spite of everything that was said, I am not a terrorist, nor Islamophobic, more a person who was carried away by fear and a horrible form of despair.”
Many present in the courtroom sobbed upon hearing the statement.
Bissonnette’s not guilty plea was entered Monday, but a few hours later, he told Judge Francois Huot that he wanted to change the plea to guilty.
The judge asked Bissonnette if he realized what the guilty plea meant, that he would face a life sentence.
The accused responded with “I understand.”
The judge then said the sentence could run to as many as 150 years in prison, to which Bissonnette responded: “I know.”
Huot refused to accept the plea and called for a psychiatric assessment of Bissonnette to make sure the accused was aware of what he was doing.
The judge accepted the guilty plea Wednesday after hearing from psychiatrist Sylvain Faucher who said the accused “is fit to stand trial and to plead what he wants to plead”.
During the assessment, Faucher said Bissonnette told him he “did not want to be the perpetrator of another collective drama”.
The guilty plea negates the necessity of a trial and spares many in the Muslim community from reliving the horrific shootings of Jan. 29, 2017.
“That the trial won’t have to take place, it’s a good thing for us, it’s a good thing for everyone in the community,” Amir Belkacemi, the son of victim Khaled Belkacemi, told reporters.
“I think the events that took place last year are very traumatic, very difficult.
“No one really wants to live those traumatic days again, and today what happened in the courtroom kind of puts it to an end.”
Bissonnette echoed those feelings when he told the judge he wanted change his plea to guilty.
“In my heart, it’s the decision I have wanted to make in order to avoid a trial and for the victims to not have to relive this tragedy,” he said.
Sentencing will be discussed at a later date.–AA

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