'I'm fighting with a demon': Mosque shooter Bissonnette pleads guilty
Alexandre Bissonnette has pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and another six counts of attempted murder in the Quebec City mosque shooting.
Bissonnette pleaded guilty on Monday, but the judge in the case ordered a publication ban on that plea and ordered a psychiatric report on Bissonnette's mental health.
Having determined that Bissonnette was fully aware of what he was doing, and what it would mean, judge Francois Huot accepted the guilty plea on Wednesday.
Bissonnette told the judge that he wanted to plead guilty to spare others the trauma of having to go through a trial, and having to hear descriptions of what took place the night of Jan. 29, 2017 at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre.
"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.
Bissonnette had prepared a statement to read in court to explain his decision and his actions.
"I am ashamed of what I did. I do not know why I made a foolish gesture like this and still today, I have difficulty believing what I did.
"Be aware, however, that contrary to what has been said, I am neither a terrorist nor an Islamophobe.
"I have long had suicidal thoughts and ideas and an obsession with death. It's like I'm fighting with a demon who ended up getting me and beating me," said Bissonnette.
"I know my actions are unforgivable."
|Alexandre Bissonnette's statement in full|
At this point that I am free to clear my heart and my mind,
I would like to say to you, your honour and everyone:
Every minute of my existence, I bitterly regret what I did, the lives that I destroyed, the grief and the immense pain that I inflicted on so many people, including the members of my own family.
I am ashamed, ashamed of what I did.
I do not know why I committed such a senseless act.
And to this day, I have a hard time believing it.
In spite of what has been said about me, I am not a terrorist, nor an Islamophobe, rather a person who was carried away by fear, negative thoughts and a horrible form of despair.
For a long time, I had suicidal thoughts and an obsession with death.
As if I was fighting with a demon who ended up getting the best of me, who ended up winning against me.
I very much wish I could go back in time and change things.
Sometimes, I feel that all of this is a bad dream, a long nightmare.
I would like to ask you for forgiveness for all the harm that I have done to you, but I know that what I did is unforgivable.
If by pleading guilty, I can do a bit of good in all of this, then it will at least be something.
This is why I am pleading guilty before you.
Mohamed Labidi, president of the mosque, said Bissonnette's statement was inadequate.
"We are still needing other explanations because the small words that he pronounced don't convince us about all the motives of the crime," said Labidi.
Family members of the six slain men and the many other injured people sobbed in court as Huot read the names of the victims: Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Azzeddine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, and Abdelkrim Hassane.
The attempted murder charges involve five people who were shot, and the sixth charge represented others at the mosque that night.
Bissonnette will be sentenced to life in prison, which is automatic for those guilty of first degree murder, and could be sentenced to consecutive sentences -- meaning he would face up to 150 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
Members of the city's Muslim community were relieved by the guilty plea.
"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," said Amir Belkacemi, whose father was killed by Bissonnette.
"No one really wants to live those traumatic days again, and today what happened in the courtroom kind of puts it to an end."