Christchurch Mosques terror appeal looms

·2-min read

The Australian man who killed 51 worshippers in the Christchurch Mosques terror attacks could appeal his lifetime jail sentence, alleging he admitted his crimes only after "inhumane and degrading" treatment on remand.

Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty to planning and carrying out the 2019 massacre in March last year, and in August was sentenced to a lifetime in prison without the possibility of parole.

Two NZ media outlets report Tarrant is considering an appeal, on advice from Wellington-based human rights lawyer Tony Ellis.

Tarrant represented himself at his sentencing, but has reportedly engaged Dr Ellis for a coronial inquiry into New Zealand's worst mass shooting.

In reports published by Radio NZ and Stuff on Monday, Dr Ellis alleges Tarrant was "subject to inhumane or degrading treatment while on remand, which prevented a fair trial" in a memo to the coroner.

"He sent me about 15 pages of narrative of how he had been treated since he'd been in prison," Dr Ellis writes in the memo.

"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."

Tarrant was a meek presence at the four-day sentencing in Christchurch last August, barely registering as dozens of victims and family members delivered victim impact statements.

This was in contrast to earlier pre-trial hearings, when Tarrant was communicative and sometimes demonstrative.

His decision to reverse earlier pleas and confess his crimes came as a major surprise, and meant the matter did not go to trial.

Last month, chief coroner Deborah Marshall announced she'd opened a coronial inquiry into the attack, saying it would allow a "more in-depth investigation into the causes and circumstances of the deaths".

While victims groups welcomed that investigation, news of a possible appeal has shattered many affected by the attacks on Christchurch's Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre.

Gamal Fouda, Al Noor's imam, said Tarrant wanted to "become famous and (was) grandstanding".

"This situation is causing further trauma ... and the terrorist should not be given the opportunity to re-traumatise all of us as New Zealanders."

Tarrant has been cited as inspiration for hateful attempted terrorist attacks around the world.

However, he has little knowledge of his status, kept in isolation at Auckland Prison with restrictions on mail and access to news.

Dr Ellis believes the current terms of Tarrant's incarceration will prevent his participation in the coronial inquiry.

"As he is held in virtually 24-hour solitary confinement in the Persons of Exceptional Risk Unit, there are issues arising as to his receiving information, and he has only limited access to daily news," his memo states.

Dr Ellis alleges four letters from the coroner have not reached Tarrant.

Radio NZ reports Dr Ellis and Ms Marshall will meet next month as part of the coronial inquiry.

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