QUEBEC — The 14-year-old daughter of the man considered a hero after he died trying to stop the Quebec City mosque shooter gave moving testimony Thursday about how much she misses her father.
In between tears, the teenager spoke on behalf of herself and her family and about how Azzedine Soufiane's death has left a giant void in their lives.
"I miss my father terribly," said the girl, whose name is under a publication ban. "He was everything to me."
The girl's mother and many others in the courtroom cried throughout her testimony, which was part of the sentencing arguments hearing for Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to murdering Soufiane and five other Muslim worshippers on Jan. 29, 2017.
Witnesses to the mosque shooting said Soufiane charged the gunman, trying to disarm him and save others, only to be shot dead on the carpet.
The girl said in the days following the shooting she was living in a fog, telling herself her father was still alive.
But then, "I saw the casket," she said. "And I really saw that my father was dead."
"I am proud of my dad, of his actions," she said. "He was the best father, the best man ... Why? Why did this man (Bissonnette) attack innocent people?"
Even Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot described her father as a hero.
Huot addressed the girl directly, telling her he never had the privilege to meet Soufiane, but that, due to his actions, "he was a giant. Your father was a hero."
The Crown completed presenting its evidence Thursday. Bissonnette's defence team is scheduled to begin its arguments Monday.
A conviction on first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Huot has to determine how much time must be served before the eligibility kicks in — which in this case could be as much as 150 years.
Earlier on Thursday, the head of the Quebec City mosque where the six men were gunned down addressed the author of the rampage directly and pointedly asked him why he committed the crimes.
"Why? Why?," said Boufeldja Benabdallah, his eyes trained on killer Bissonnette.
"You killed six of my brothers. But you also caused pain to all Quebec society, which could not believe that such an attack had occurred at home."
Having heard previous evidence in court, Benabdallah refused to call Bissonnette a victim of society.
"Society is not guilty of your well-thought-out gesture," he said. "No one will bear the responsibility or the burden of another."
He told Bissonnette the community was recovering but that the painful memories will remain even if the mosque's carpets have had the blood washed from them and the bullet holes in the walls have been replastered.
"There will always be the memory of bodies lying inert or writhing in pain and reminding us of the tragedy of which you were the perpetrator," he said in tears.
Meanwhile, the president of the mosque on the night of the massacre told Huot a feeling of fear and insecurity remains among Muslims in Quebec.
Mohamed Labidi testified that some families have talked about leaving the province or even Canada, while others actually have moved away.
Labidi said Bissonnette's act has intimidated the community and had a deep impact on its identity.
Emotions have been running high at the hearing, where two widows have testified as well as two children of one of the men killed that night.
Several men who were present in the mosque have recounted in detail what they saw and how they were wounded.
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