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Men Abused Worshipper Before Mosque Attack: Inquest Hears

Imam Gamal Fouda gives evidence to the coronial hearing last October. Photo: Pool / Iain McGregor / The Press

A worshipper at Al Noor Mosque was trapped in a room and verbally abused before the Christchurch terror attacks.

The inquest into the deaths of the 51 worshippers murdered on 15 March 2019 was this morning played an audio recording of Imam Gamal Fouda which detailed the incident.

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Gamal Fouda described how two people came to the mosque and verbally abused a worshipper.

"They were saying 'go back to your country' and they were very rude. They locked [the worshipper] in the kitchen and shouted at him," Fouda said.

It was reported to police.

"We report it that they are dangerous with the police and the police kept saying they can't do nothing and if they come back just ask them to leave."

A volunteer at the mosque, who cannot be identified, had been giving evidence to the inquest this morning.

The recording was played to him during questioning from Wendy Aldred, the counsel assisting the coroner.

The witness said he remembered the two men were drunk and came into the mosque on a weekend night.

He could not recall if they broke into the mosque or just walked in.

Later, during questioning from another lawyer, the witness said such verbal abuse, directed at the Muslim community, "happens all the time".

Deputy Chief Coroner Brigitte Windley was hearing evidence on an emergency door in the mosque's main prayer room which failed to open during the attack.

Why the door failed to open and the regulatory regime surrounding emergency exits are being scrutinised during the two-week hearing.

The door's failure to open potentially contributed to the deaths of 11 people.

Fouda's statement included a claim that the emergency exit door in Al Noor Mosque's main prayer room was damaged during a robbery.

"He [the offender] actually broke the door that didn't open [on 15 March 2019], so he used probably leverage to open the door and the frame got bent and when the police came, they suggested this lock is easy to be opened from outside with a screwdriver, so they need to replace it," Fouda said.

"I reported it to the management and this is how they probably started fixing the door."

The inquest yesterday saw photos which demonstrated damage to the lock's strike plate.

The inquest also heard the door was old and a mechanical lock, which kept it shut, could be a "little tricky" to operate.

When the gunman entered Al Noor Mosque, worshippers rushed for the door but could not open the lock and as a result, the glass in the bottom pane was smashed and some worshippers crawled out.

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