Survivors of the Quebec mosque attack, other Muslim community members denounce killer's sentence

29-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, who gunned down six worshippers two years ago, will serve 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

The sentence, handed down on Friday, was denounced by survivors of the attack and other Muslim community members.

Aymen Derbali, who was shot seven times and left paralyzed from the waist down, told reporters he did not understand why the judge dwelled on Bissonnette's life expectancy and the possibility that he would die in prison.

"We were astonished, we were very upset after this sentence,'' Derbali said.

Boufeldja Benabdallah, president of the mosque that was attacked, said community members were "stunned'' by the decision and felt the judge was more concerned about the dignity of the killer than that of the victims and their families.

"We want to appeal to Quebec society to understand us, to understand the pain we are in today, the disappointment we feel,'' he said.

Said El-Amari, who was wounded at the mosque, said the decision made him feel like "a Muslim Canadian citizen is worth less than any other citizen.'' He compared the sentence to that of Justin Bourque, who received 75 years without parole for killing three RCMP officers in New Brunswick in 2014.

"Nobody asked whether (Bourque) would have the time to get out and live in society or not,'' he said.
Ahmed Cheddadi, who was in the in the mosque at the time of shooting, said he worries the sentence could mean that some of the victims' young orphaned children "could one day run into their father's killer at the supermarket.''

The Crown said it will take the time to study the 246-page decision before deciding whether to appeal. The defence also said it needs time to study the ruling.

A decision on sentencing was originally expected in October, but Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot pushed that back, saying he needed more information on some legal questions, including the constitutionality of consecutive life sentences.

Witnesses at the time described the former Universite Laval student entering the Islamic Cultural Centre and calmly opening fire on the crowd gathered for evening prayers.

In addition to the men killed, five others were struck by bullets. The sixth attempted murder charge related to others who were nearby in the mosque.

The crime prompted an outpouring of horror and sympathy that reached across Canada and around the world, prompting a wider conversation on Islamophobia, intolerance, and the need for better understanding between communities. During a sentencing hearing last June, the conversation began to shift to the appropriate way to punish a crime that was, in many ways, unprecedented in Canadian history.