Extremist Brenton Tarrant appears in New Zealand court charged in mosques terror attack, enters no plea

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Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is led into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019. (Reuters)
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Omar Nabi speaks to the media about losing his father Haji Daoud in the mosque attacks, at the district court in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. (Reuters)
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Title : Members of the media wait at a gate as police and military personnel work at the carpark compound of the district court after Friday's mosque attacks, in Christchurch. (Reuters)
Updated 16 March 2019

Extremist Brenton Tarrant appears in New Zealand court charged in mosques terror attack, enters no plea

  • Deaths of 49 people in two Christchurch mosques sparks outpouring of grief around the world
  • Attacker enters no plea, is taken into custody until his next court appearance scheduled for April 5

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: Brenton Tarrant, 28, entered no plea when he appeared on Saturday morning in a Christchurch court charged with murder after a terrorist attack on two mosques in the city.

Dressed in a white prison tunic, handcuffed and flanked by two police officers, Tarrant stood passively in the dock. At one point he gazed around at the courtroom, which was packed with media.

The judge had cleared members of the public from the court for safety reasons. Tarrant said nothing, entered no plea to the charge and did not apply to have his name withheld. 

He appeared in court a day after the shootings at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid mosques. At least 49 people were killed, while dozens more were injured. 

Judge Paul Kellar said although Tarrant was facing only one murder charge, it was "reasonable to assume there will be other charges”.  

 

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The attack led to an outpouring of grief and shock that a white-supremacist fanatic could carry out a terrorist attack on such a scale in a country widely regarded as one of the world's most peaceful.

World leaders and religious figures expressed their sorrow at the killing, which targeted women, children and men as they prayed in their place of worship. The shock was exacerbated by the fact Tarrant livestreamed his actions from a camera mounted to his helmet, sparking anger at social media platforms and the length of time it took them to remove the videos.




Omar Nabi speaks to the media about losing his father Haji Daoud in the mosque attacks, at the district court in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. (Reuters)

The attack was the worst ever peacetime mass killing in New Zealand and the country raised its security threat level to the highest.

Police said three people were in custody. "Our investigations are in their early stages and we will be looking closely to build a picture of any of the individuals involved and all of their activities prior to this horrific event," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday promised to reform the country's gun laws. She said the main perpetrator used five weapons during his rampage, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, which he was legally licensed to own.

"I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change," Ardern told reporters.

The man facing murder charges was an Australian citizen who had spent a lot of time travelling overseas and spent time only sporadically in New Zealand, Ardern said.

None of those arrested had a criminal history or was on any watchlist in New Zealand or Australia.

Among the wounded, two were in a critical condition, including a four-year-old child.

There was a heavy police presence at the hospital where families of the wounded had gathered. Funerals were planned on Saturday for some of the victims, several of whom were born overseas.

A Saudi man, Mohsin Al-Mozaini was among the dead, AlArabiya reported. 

King Salman described the attack as a "heinous massacre" that "underlines the responsibility of the international community to confront the rhetoric of hatred and terrorism."

One man who said he was at the Al Noor mosque told media the gunman burst into the mosque as worshippers were kneeling for prayers.

"He had a big gun...He came and started shooting everyone in the mosque, everywhere," said the man, Ahmad Al-Mahmoud. He said he and others escaped by breaking through a glass door.

Facebook said it had deleted the gunman's accounts "shortly after the livestream commenced" after being alerted by police. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all said they had taken steps to remove copies of the videos.

Ardern said she had asked authorities to look into whether there was any activity on social media or elsewhere ahead of the attack that should have triggered a response.
 

City on edge

Christchurch is a city of about 400,000 residents, still recovering from a massive earthquake in 2011 that killed 187 people.

A noisy generator raring from a construction site next to the Christchurch Justice Precinct was a stark and irritating reminder of those tragic events, as media and members of the public gathered awaiting Tarrant’s court appearance.

The city is on edge as helicopters are heard overhead and people are advised to stay indoors. It’s a city in crisis mode yet again, just a few years on from the quakes that rattled Christchurch to its core.

Schools, institutions and workplaces went forced into lockdown for three and half hours on Friday afternoon as police hunted the shooters.

*With Reuters and AFP

 

 


Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

Updated 11 December 2019

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

  • The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims

NEW DELHI: Protests erupted across various parts of India on Tuesday, a day after the lower house of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which makes religion the basis for granting Indian citizenship to minorities from neighboring countries. 

The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims.

“After the CAB, we are going to bring in the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” Home Minister Amit Shah said after the passage of the bill. 

The fear among a large section of Indians is that by bringing in the CAB and the NRC — a process to identify illegal immigrants — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to target Muslim minorities. 

They insist that the new bill protects all other communities except Muslims, who constitute around 14 percent of India’s total population.

The opposition Congress Party said that the bill was a move to “destroy the foundation” of India.

“The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” party leader Rahul Gandhi posted in a tweet.

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and a prominent opposition leader, called the bill “India’s tryst with bigotry.”

However, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said: “The opposition is communalizing the bill. 

The CAB saves minorities who owe their origin to India from being prosecuted on grounds of religious status. The same is not the case with Muslims since they have not been prosecuted because of their religion.”

Eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the CAB. 

“Once the bill is implemented, the native tribal people will become permanent minorities in their own state,” Animesh Debbarma, a tribal leader who organized the strike in the state of Tripura said.

“The bill is against our fundamental rights and it is an attack on our constitution and secularism,” he told Arab News.

In Assam, some places saw violence with a vehicle belonging to the BJP state president vandalized.

In New Delhi, different civil society groups and individuals gathered close to the Indian Parliament and expressed their outrage at the “open and blatant attack” on what they called the “idea” of India.

“The CAB is not only against Muslim minorities but against all the minorities — be it Tamils or Nepali Gurkhas — and is a blatant attempt to polarize the society in the name of religion and turn India into a majoritarian Hindu state,” Nadeem Khan, head of United Against Hate, a campaign to connect people from different faiths, said.

Rallies and protests were also organized in Pune, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Patna and Lucknow.

On Tuesday, more than 600 academics, activists, lawyers and writers called the bill “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional” in an open letter, and urged the government to withdraw the proposed law.

They said that the CAB, along with the NRC, “will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”

Delhi-based activist and a prominent human rights campaigner, Harsh Mander, said: “I feel the CAB is the most dangerous bill that has ever been brought by the Indian Parliament. We need a mass civil disobedience movement to oppose this legislation.”

Meanwhile, the international community is also watching the domestic debate on the CAB. 

Describing the initiative as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,”  a federal US commission on international religious freedom has sought US sanctions against Shah and other Indian leaders if the bill with the “religious criterion” is passed.

EU ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, in a press conference in New Delhi on Monday said that he hopes: “The spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution will be upheld by the Parliament.”