Mosque members 'astonished' by Bissonnette sentence
Published Friday, February 8, 2019 5:41PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 9, 2019 8:42PM EST
A visibly emotional Aymen Derbali sat in his wheelchair while addressing media after Alexandre Bissonnette's life sentence with a possibility of parole after 40 years was handed down on Friday.
Derbali was gravely injured when Bissonnette opened fire in a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, 2017. He was shot seven times and left paralyzed from the waist down, suffering nightmares for over a year afterward.
The sentence, which was reached months after Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder, shocked Derbali and others who were affected by the shooting.
“All of us were astonished by the sentence," he said. "We don’t know how he gives this sentence of 40 years with a conditional (parole). If you have a murder, you can have a period of 25 years… We don’t know how he gave this possibility of condition liberation after 40 years.”
Hassan Guillet, an imam who gained widespread recognition for his remarks at the funeral for three of the victims, said the victims' families were looking for a peace of mind and healing that the verdict did not deliver.
“We are disappointed. In the judgment, after talking about all the atrocities Mr. Bissonnette did in the mosque… to the point that the policemen in the courthouse were distributing Kleenex to the people there to sweep up their tears," he said. "There are so many details we either didn’t know or tried to forget. Killing people on the floor, planting seven bullets in the body of Aymen, and after seven bullets he’s still alive."
"He declared he wanted to kill more people, he was disappointed in himself he didn’t kill enough. And then the judge, with all our due respect, came up with this idea of declaring the article of criminal law to be unconstitutional and rewriting it… We know, after 40 years, Mr. Bissonnette will be 67, we don’t know if he’ll be alive or not, but the orphans, very likely will be still alive and the debate will be reopened again.”
Guillet did praise Justice Francois Huot for recognizing the role played by hatred in the murders, referencing Premier Francois Legault's recent remarks that Islamophobia is not a problem in Quebec.
“Unfortunately in our society, many people deny that, they say Islamophobia does not exist or that it’s a personal act or he had a mental illness," he said. "At least the judge realized it’s a hate crime and it’s racist and he killed these people only because they’re Muslims.”
The mosque's vice-president Mohamed Labidi said the ruling was especially difficult for the children of the victims.
"(Paroled) or not, they will revive their suffering in 40 years," he said. "All the children 20 and less, surely will survive this period and they will revive the suffering of their parents."
National Council of Canadian Muslims Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee said the families were displaying a "sense of anguish and frustration" while hearing the verdict.
“At the end of the day, whether it was 25 years or 150 years, there was no sentence that everybody would agree would be fair. Nothing will bring those who lost their lives back to their families," he said. "This is a wound that will never fully heal for these families.”
Aymen Derbali says he and others in the Muslim community are “astonished” and “very upset” with the judge’s decision. They were expecting a harsher sentence for Alexandre Bissonnette. pic.twitter.com/tLiwP4eJ2s— Maya Johnson (@MJohnsonCTV) February 8, 2019
Boufeldja Benabdallah, president of the mosque, stepped in after. He says Derbali is gutted by the decision. It “demolished” him. https://t.co/XgIX3LiRS9— Maya Johnson (@MJohnsonCTV) February 8, 2019
Shocked. Gutted. Speechless. These are the words we’re hearing from mosque shooting survivors. They don’t believe Bissonnette deserves a chance to get out of prison, not even after 40 yrs. One survivor said he feels they, as Muslims, are being treated like second-class citizens.— Maya Johnson (@MJohnsonCTV) February 8, 2019