Ottawa, Feb 9 : A Canadian man who killed six worshippers in a Quebec City mosque in 2017 has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole for 40 years.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 29, pleaded guilty last March to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder. More than 50 people were at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in January 2017 when he began shooting during evening prayers.
Bissonnette has been behind bars since the incident. He will be allowed to go before the Parole Board of Canada after serving 40 years, ruled Superior Court Justice François Huot on Friday – in a decision that left survivors and families feeling “disappointed,” “dismayed” and “gutted”, CBC reported.
The prosecution had asked for a total of 150 years behind bars, which would have been the harshest jail penalty ever handed down in Canada.
Justice Huot chose instead to allow for the possibility of parole within Bissonnette’s natural life. While reading his sentencing decision, the Quebec Superior Court judge said: “His crimes were truly motivated by race and a visceral hatred towards Muslim immigrants”, but added that “punishment should not be vengeance”.
A first-degree murder conviction in Canada carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
On the evening of January 29, 2017, Bissonnette stormed into the centre and shot at those gathered for prayers, killing six and seriously injuring five others, including Aymen Derbali, who is now paralyzed.
In March, Bissonnette admitted to killing six people and also pleaded guilty to six counts of attempted murder, including one count for the 35 people who were present in the mosque at the time of the shooting but who were not injured.
“I am ashamed of what I did,” he told a Quebec courtroom at the time. “I am not a terrorist, I am not an Islamophobe.”