Sunday, November 28

The deletion of the terrorist’s name from LynnMall was revoked, but remains a secret for now

The suppression of the name of the man responsible for yesterday’s terror attack at a West Auckland supermarket has been reversed, but his name cannot yet be published, and the High Court gave his family at least 24 hours to request new warrants for suppression.

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Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

The Sri Lankan citizen was shot and killed by police after stabbing six people inside Countdown in LynnMall.

Suppression orders prevented details of his identity and background from being made public.

The Crown submitted an urgent request last night for the court orders to be lifted, so that details about the man’s identity and background can be made public.

At a trial last night, Judge Wylie said there was no longer a proper basis for the suppression orders.

But he said the man’s family lives abroad and the lawyers needed time to communicate with them and receive instructions.

He said that he might consider extending the 24-hour period if necessary.

However, it can be revealed that the man was sentenced in July to one year of supervision after a jury in Auckland High Court found him guilty of two counts of possession of IS propaganda promoting terrorism.

He was found guilty of another count of failing to comply with a search, but was cleared of a third count of possession of objectionable material and one count of possession of a knife in a public place.

The Crown had tried to indict him under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, but failed after a High Court judge ruled that planning a terrorist attack was not a crime under the law.

Because he had already spent three years in custody awaiting trial, he did not receive another prison sentence for his crime.

Despite that, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had been under surveillance since 2016, due to her support for a violent ideology inspired by the Islamic State.

The man was being monitored so closely by a surveillance and tactics team that police shot him within 60 seconds of the start of the attack.

On the radar of the authorities

He arrived in New Zealand in October 2011.

He first came to the attention of authorities in 2016, when police formally warned him about posting anti-Western, pro-Isis extremist content on the internet.

The man had also told a devotee at an Auckland mosque at some point that he wanted to go to Syria to fight for Isis.

In a July 2020 ruling, Judge Downs said in May 2017 that he booked a one-way flight to Singapore, but was arrested at Auckland Airport.

When police searched his apartment, they found a large hunting knife under the mattress on the floor and secure digital cards containing fundamentalist material, including propaganda videos and photos of the man posing with a firearm.

He was placed in pretrial detention and in June 2018 he pleaded guilty to distributing restricted publications. In August 2018, he was sentenced to supervision, the 2020 Judge Downs ruling said.

But the day after his sentencing, he went and bought the same model of hunting knife that the police had previously found under his mattress.

He was arrested again and another search found a large amount of violent material from Isis, including a video on how to kill “non-Muslims.”

This time, the Crown tried to prosecute the man under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, for planning a terrorist act.

But Judge Downs said that in itself was not a crime under the law.

In his decision, Judge Downs said: “Terrorism is a great evil. ‘Lone wolf’ terrorist attacks with knives and other improvised weapons, such as cars or trucks, are far from unheard of.

“Recent events in Christchurch show that New Zealand should not be complacent. Some of us are willing to use deadly violence for ideological, political or religious reasons.

“The absence of a crime planning or preparing a terrorist act … could be an Achilles heel.”

Judge Downs said it was not for the courts to create such a crime.

“The issue is for parliament,” he said.

A copy of Judge Downs’ judgment was delivered to the Attorney General, the Attorney General, and the Legal Affairs Commission.

Trial in Superior Court

The man was finally tried in Auckland High Court in May this year, on lesser charges.

A jury found him guilty of two counts of possession of Isis propaganda promoting terrorism and one count of failing to comply with a search.

He was acquitted of a third count of possession of objectionable material and one count of possession of a knife in a public place.

The man was sentenced in July.

In her sentencing notes, Judge Fitzgerald said that the two publications in which he was convicted were “nasheeds”: religious hymns.

Both were classified by the Censor as objectionable and contained images and letters of Isis.

Judge Fitzgerald did not accept the explanation that he was listening to them to improve his skills in the Arabic language.

“Rather, I accept that the larger context of his possession of these nasheeds, which included a variety of other Isis or Isil-related materials, suggests that he has an operational interest in Isis.

“In other words, I do not accept that you have simply come across these and other Isis-related materials in your research on Islam or the historic Islamic State,” he said.

A pre-sentencing report raised more flags.

“The writer of the report suggests that you support the aims and methods of Isis,” Judge Fitzgerald said.

“The writer of the report concludes that the risk that he will reoffend in a similar way to the current charges is high.

“It suggests that you have the means and the motivation to commit violent acts in the community and, despite not having violently offended to date, you present a very high risk of harming others.”

Since he had already spent three years in custody awaiting trial, the man was sentenced to one year of supervision.

There were restrictions on the use of electronic devices, the Internet and social networks.

“Police and community corrections clearly have concerns that you pose a non-negligible risk to the community at large,” Judge Fitzgerald said in her sentencing notes.

“I do not know if those concerns are correct and I sincerely hope they are not, although considering all the materials available at court, I can say that they are not entirely fanciful.”

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