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Canadian student pleads guilty to mass shooting that killed six at mosque

Canadian student pleads guilty to mass shooting that killed six at mosque

Many members of Quebec City's Muslim community were present in court Monday and Wednesday.

"I'd like to ask for your forgiveness for all the harm I caused you, even though I know what I did is unforgivable", he said. Many legal experts said terrorism charges would simply complicate a trial process that already gave the killer a life sentence. "[I am] more a person who was carried away by fear and a awful form of despair".

He stared straight out at the courtroom as he approached the witness box clutching the piece of paper Wednesday morning.

Bissonnette faced six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder.

Six people were killed and another 18 wounded in the attack during evening prayers at the Quebec City Islamic cultural center, also known as the Grande Mosquée de Quebec.

Alexandre Bissonnette told a Quebec City court that he wanted to change his previous plea of not guilty.

Psychiatrist Sylvain Faucher said Bissonnette "is fit to stand trial and to plead what he wants to plead".

The six victims - Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane and Aboubaker Thabti - were Canadian dual nationals born in Algeria (two), Guinea (two), Morocco and Tunisia, and who had long ago resettled in Quebec.

Aymen Derbali, the father of three who was paralyzed after diverting the shooter's attention and taking seven bullets, sat in the centre of the courtroom.

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In all, 17 children lost a parent in the shooting.

"I do not know why I did a foolish thing like that, and still today I'm having a hard time believing it". "No one really wants to live those traumatic days again".

On Wednesday, however, he changed his plea to "guilty" for the six killings, averting a trial.

To each question, Mr. Bissonnette replied that he understood, and that he was making the plea on his own free will.

The judge peppered Bissonnette with questions about his decision to change his plea to ensure the "validity" could not be called into question. The killer explained he chose to admit his guilt several months ago because he didn't want thousands of people, including the families and living victims, "to relive this tragedy".

He could now face a life sentence, or a minimum of 25 years in prison.

When Mr Justice Huot asked him if he was fully aware of what he was doing, Bissonnette replied: "Yes".

Bissonnette nodded his head and said, "Yes". He said his lawyers advised him to wait for all the evidence to be available to them before telling the judge.

Just before admitting guilt, Mr. Bissonnette informed the judge "I intend to plead guilty" in front of a sparse courtroom crowd, most of whom attended anticipating more routine matters.


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