QUEBEC — A judge has begun reading a decision that will determine whether the man who murdered six worshippers in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017 will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot is ruling how long Alexandre Bissonnette spends in prison before he is eligible for parole.
Huot told Bissonnette, wearing a blue blazer and white shirt, to leave the prisoners' box and stand in front of him as he began reading his decision. The judge said the day of the murders "will forever be written in blood in the history of this city, this province, this country."
He called the shooting attack premeditated, gratuitous and insidious.
Bissonnette, 29, pleaded guilty last March to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder after he walked into the mosque at the Islamic Cultural Centre during evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017 and opened fire. The murder victims were Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41; Khaled Belkacemi, 60; Aboubaker Thabti, 44; Azzeddine Soufiane, 57; and Ibrahima Barry, 39.
All 250 seats in the courtroom are filled, with a section reserved for members of Quebec City's Muslim community. Bissonnette's parents are also present.
Several people in the room wept as the judge read a second-by-second account of the shooter's actions on the night of the crime. Two women left the room in tears as Huot described how Bissonnette approached Soufiane as he lay on the ground, already wounded, and fired another bullet into his head.
The Crown has recommended that Bissonnette serve six consecutive sentences totalling 150 years, while the defence has argued he should be eligible for parole after 25 years.
The Criminal Code was amended in 2011 to allow a judge to impose consecutive sentences in cases of multiple murder. Several of the survivors and the victims' families have argued for a sentence longer than 25 years, noting the heinous nature of the crime and the lasting trauma it caused for the Muslim community.