NZ judge allows images of man charged in mosque shootings

Brenton Tarrant, the man charged in the Christchurch mosque shootings, appears in the Christchurch District Court, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (File/AP/Mark Mitchell)
Updated 10 June 2019

NZ judge allows images of man charged in mosque shootings

  • Previously, the courts ruled media could only publish images which pixelated the face of Brenton Harrison Tarrant
  • Retired law professor Bill Hodge says the initial argument for suppression was likely made to ensure witnesses weren’t tainted

WELLINGTON, New Zealand:  A New Zealand judge ruled Thursday that media outlets can now show the face of the man accused of killing 51 people at two Christchurch mosques.
Two New Zealand courts had previously ruled that television stations, websites, newspapers and other media could only publish images which pixelated the face of Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian white supremacist accused of the March 15 mass shooting.
But High Court Judge Cameron Mander wrote in a court note that prosecutors had advised him there was no longer any need to suppress images of Tarrant's face and he was lifting the order.
The previous rulings hadn't stopped images of Tarrant from circulating on the internet, and questions remained about whether the court's rulings could be applied to media operating outside of New Zealand's borders.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers, who have not commented on the case publicly, did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment on Thursday.
Retired law professor Bill Hodge said the initial argument for suppressing images of Tarrant was likely made to ensure witnesses weren't tainted — that they could identify the gunman from their own recollection and not from seeing a picture in a newspaper.
“I can only assume that neither side is concerned about poisoning the well of identification witnesses,” Hodge said.
Tarrant livestreamed much of his attack on Facebook. The chilling 17-minute video, in which he shows his face, was copied and widely viewed on the internet even as tech companies scrambled to remove it.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed never to say the gunman's name, and last month helped lead a global pledge named the “Christchurch Call,” aimed at boosting efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks.
The White House did not endorse the pledge, citing respect for “freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
Hodge said Ardern and other politicians might be making a nice gesture by trying to avoid giving Tarrant the publicity he's likely seeking. But Hodge said that's been somewhat undermined after police decided last month to add a terrorism charge against Tarrant to the charges of murder and attempted murder he already faced.
Hodge said the terrorism charge had never been previously tested in New Zealand's court system and it could backfire by giving Tarrant a platform to broadcast his white supremacist views, since defending himself against that charge could give him more scope to express his alleged motives.
A spokesperson for Ardern said the prime minister had no comment to make on a matter for the court.
Tarrant is next scheduled to appear in court via videolink on June 14, when he is expected to enter pleas to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism.


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.”