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  • Rovindu Ambagolla

World Politics >>> New Zealand Terrorism Attack and its Legal Impact

Picture credit: Wall Street Journal website

On September 3rd a suspected Islamist extremist carried out a knife attack on shoppers and injured six people before he was shot by New Zealand police officers. This brutal attack was the first terrorist attack in New Zealand after white supremacists murdered 51 people in two mosques in the city of Christchurch in March 2019.

The attacker was identified to be 32-year-old Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, a Sri Lankan man who police suspected was inspired by Islamist extremism. Ahamed had been released from custody in mid-July with a year long probationary type sentence after three years awaiting trial for possessing extremist material and an offensive weapon.

He had moved to New Zealand with a student visa and even received a warning from the police five years later for promoting violent extremism on social media. He was also arrested in 2017 for attempting to travel to Syria. Ahamed was under round-the-clock surveillance by a team of 30 police officers and they were able to stop the attack just 60 seconds after he initiated it.

Picture credit: BBC news website

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that an updated counterterrorism law will be voted on by the Parliament before the end of September. A part of implementing this new law will criminalise the planning and preparation of a terrorist attack. The urgency of voting on the new law was supported by the main opposition party, but some legal professionals and Islamic groups have been wary of such a move.

“We don’t believe any such legislation should be rushed on the basis of this attack” commented Anjum Rahman, spokeswoman for the Islamic Women’s Council New Zealand, further adding that “the bill requires proper scrutiny”. Andrew Geddis, a professor of law at the University of Otago further commented that the rush to pass the new law was also based on a political desire to divert criticism from the Government.

Jacinda Ardern also commented “I do not think it is fair to make an assumption that that law change in itself would have made the difference in this case. We don’t know that to be true.” Further adding, “This was a highly motivated individual who used a supermarket visit as a shield for an attack”.

However, in late August police had urged officials to consider an expedited passage of the counterterrorism law to gain access to more legal options to deal with this individual, as they believed he posed a substantial threat to society. Just 48 hours after the request was made, New Zealand’s Justice Minister requested for haste from the head of the parliamentary committee overseeing the legislation, but it was too late as it was the day Ahamed decided to conduct the attack.

September 9th 2021 | 11:10 AM

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