Christchurch mosque shooter claims guilty plea obtained under duress, expected to appeal | New Zealand

The Christchurch mosque terrorist has filed complaints alleging that his treatment in New Zealand custody – including the refusal to refer to him by name – constituted a violation of his human rights, and that his guilty pleas were obtained under duress.

Brenton Tarrant, an Australian white supremacist who murdered 51 people in an attack on two Christchurch mosques in March 2019, said via a memorandum from his lawyer Dr Tony Ellis that his guilty pleas were obtained under duress due to mistreatment in custody. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in August 2020. Ellis told local media outlets that he expected the gunman, Tarrant, to file an appeal against his convictions.

In the wake of the attacks, prime minister Jacinda Ardern vowed she would never say the attacker’s name, and many other government bodies followed her lead. “He sought many things from his act of terror but one was notoriety, that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” Ardern said of the gunman at the time. “He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless. … He may have sought notoriety but we, in New Zealand, will give nothing – not even his name.”

Imam Gamal Fouda, the imam of one of the mosques at the centre of the attacks, said the terrorist was “grandstanding” and attempting to further traumatise the families of those who he killed.

“I believe this unnamed terrorist wishes to become famous and [is] grandstanding, especially with the coroner’s inquiry due in early December this year,” he said. “This situation is causing further trauma to the whānau (families), and the terrorist should not be given the opportunity to re-traumatise all of us as New Zealanders.”

“I fully support what the New Zealand courts have done, and I request that all media whether in New Zealand or overseas do not provide the terrorist with any voice. I believe they should continue to disregard his name.”

“I don’t know how he can appeal it because he already admitted to what he’s done,” said Rashid Omar, whose son Tariq Omar was killed in the attacks, and who is co-chair of the 15th March Whānau Trust. “If it’s going to go ahead, it’s going to recreate all the trauma that we had. And I think that’s what he enjoys, what he wants us to feel – to go back to day one again, after two and a half years.”

The coroner’s office would not release the memo on Monday, saying in a written statement that “Chief Coroner Judge Marshall makes no comment in this matter,” and said the memo could be requested from Tarrant’s lawyer. Ellis declined to comment to the Guardian on the memo or to provide its full text, and said Tarrant had released it to only two local media outlets.

According to RNZ, one of the media outlets given the memo, Tarrant says he pleaded guilty to the charges because of the inhumane and degrading treatment he experienced while awaiting trial. He has been held in near 24-hour solitary confinement, and has highly limited access to news. Ellis also alleged his client had had correspondence withheld, including letters from the coroner and copies of the royal commission of inquiry.

“He sent me about 15 pages of narrative of how he had been treated since he’d been in prison,” Ellis told RNZ.

“He said because of how he was treated while he was awaiting trial and afterwards, [that affected] his will to carry on and he decided that the simplest way out was to plead guilty.”

“By this, he means he was subject to inhuman or degrading treatment whilst on remand, which prevented a fair trial.”

According to the outlets provided with the memo, Ellis writes that the chief coroner’s refusal to use Tarrant’s name – instead referring to him repeatedly as “the individual,” was a serious breach of human rights and an attempt render the offender a “non-person”, failed to provide him equal protection and equal treatment before the law and was “deeply offensive and unlawful”.

In both the royal commission’s full report into the attack and the coroner’s 47-page scope of inquiry, the terrorist is never referred to by name, only as “the individual”.

“What we’ve been doing, calling him ‘an individual’ is very, very polite,” Omar said. “To me [he] is nothing. He’s not even a human being. So I still call him ‘it’ – he doesn’t deserve any name at all.”




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