New Zealand's response to Christchurch terror attack questioned

Published 16.08.2019 00:18

After a lone gunman killed 51 Muslim worshipers at two mosques in March, New Zealand's outpouring of collective grief and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's heartfelt support for the Muslim community won praise around the world. But months after the attacks, criticism is mounting over the aftermath, including the prolonged legal process and the handling of a powerful government inquiry.

In June, relatives and victims were told the trial of suspected white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who has pleaded not guilty to 92 counts of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, would not take place until May next year, coinciding with the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. From the beginning, delays and confusion confirming the identities of victims and releasing bodies upset relatives who were unable to bury their loved ones as soon as possible, as dictated by Islamic traditions. Soon after the attack, many Muslims questioned whether security services took the risk of white supremacist violence seriously enough.

In addition, the gunman has written several letters from jail expressing his political and social views, prompting Prime Minister Ardern to say that should never have been allowed. The New Zealand Herald and other local media organizations had images of the six-page letter and envelope which the alleged mosque shooter, Brenton Tarrant, sent from Auckland Prison. They were posted online on the controversial imageboard 4chan.

"I think every New Zealander would have an expectation that this individual should not be able to share his hateful message from behind bars," Ardern was quoted telling reporters on Wednesday in Tuvalu, where she is attending the Pacific Islands Forum.

The man accused of the Christchurch mosque shootings sent seven letters from jail, New Zealand's minister for corrections said yesterday. Kelvin Davis told Radio New Zealand that he had been advised that two of Brenton Tarrant's letters were addressed to his mother and five to other people. Two letters were withheld. One of the letters that the 28-year-old suspected white supremacist sent to a supporter based in Russia surfaced on an alt-right website this week.

Corrections head Christine Stevenson apologized for "the distress that this has caused to those impacted by the tragic events of 15 March." "I acknowledge that this letter should not have been able to be sent," she said in a statement. Tarrant, who is held in isolation in Auckland Prison, will no longer be able to send or receive any mail until the department reviews the process.

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