QUEBEC - If the Quebec City mosque shooter gets anything other than an exemplary sentence or is freed one day, it would be like a second death for victims and their families, the widow of one of the six murdered men said Tuesday.
Louiza Mohamed-Said, whose husband Abdelkrim Hassane was killed by Alexandre Bissonnette, described struggling to find the words to tell the couple's three young daughters about "their father's death."
Bissonnette, 28, pleaded guilty last month to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder in the shooting on Jan. 29, 2017.
The defence is asking for a life sentence of 25 years for Bissonnette while the Crown hasn't yet said what it will recommend.
He can face up to 150 years behind bars.
Survivors as well as relatives of the victims continued to testify Tuesday at the sentencing arguments for Bissonnette.
Mohamed-Said recounted the nightmare of the night of the slayings when she went to the hospital and begged a doctor to save her husband — to take one of her kidneys if needed — only to be told it was too late.
Back at home, she didn't know what to tell her three daughters. The youngest, who was barely a year old, will never have any memories of her father.
"It's so unfair," she said, adding that nothing can replace the love of a father, especially one as loving as Hassane.
Mohamed-Said called on Superior Court Justice Francois Huot to hand down an exemplary sentence.
"What terrifies me the most, and it will until the end of my existence, is that the day will come when it will be announced that the man who darkened our joy...will have his sentence shortened or be freed and therefore be absolved of his atrocities," she said.
Two men who were inside the mosque that night also took the stand Tuesday.
Said Akjour said Bissonnette seemed calm and almost as though he was playing a video game when he embarked on his murderous rampage.
He said he heard noise that sounded like gunfire but didn't understand what was happening. Then he saw Bissonnette, dressed in black, shooting in the prayer room.
"I saw a massacre play out before my eyes," Akjour said.
Hiding with a bullet wound to the shoulder, he took a quick look while the shooter reloaded.
"That's when I saw the bravery of Azzedine Soufiane," he said. Soufiane, one of the six men who died, tried to get others to come with him to stop Bissonnette. Finally, Soufiane charged Bissonnette on his own and died.
Akjour told the Crown prosecutor: "You have said it lasted two minutes. For me, it lasted two hours."
Said El-Amari, another worshipper, cried as he recounted watching Soufiane die.
"We should have gone to help him," El-Amari said. "I always have this regret ... it always eats me up," he said.
He apologized to Soufiane's wife for not doing more. El-Amari was shot in the abdomen and the knee.
Huot tried to reassure El-Amari, telling the man he had no reason to be remorseful.
"I understand it, but it is unjustified."
The judge said everyone would have done the same thing because it is the survival instinct.
"Turn the page and be happy," Huot said as El-Amari left the courtroom wiping away tears.
Akjour, meanwhile, told the court he missed eight months of work because of his shoulder wound.
But that night's carnage has left lasting scars: he still can't work full-time, is plagued by nightmares and sees danger at every turn, even when he's at the grocery store or at the library.
Akjour said his eight-year-old son has been terrorized by the attack: he won't step foot in the mosque any longer and the youngster regularly checks up on him to make sure he's still alive.
"What he went through, it was bad," Akjour said. "There is a life before January 29, 2017, and a life after."
"What terrifies me the most, and it will until the end of my existence, is that the day will come when it will be announced that the man who darkened our joy...will have his sentence shortened or be freed and therefore be absolved of his atrocities."