Convicted murderer says convictions were obtained under duress and that he was subjected to ‘inhuman’ treatment.
The Christchurch mosque attacker is considering appealing his life sentence for the massacre in 2019, arguing that his confession was made under duress, his lawyer said on Monday.
The self-proclaimed white supremacist, Brenton Tarrant, pleaded guilty in March last year to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of terrorism.
He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the first time a life sentence has been imposed in New Zealand.
Tarrant did not present a defense at the time, but his lawyer Tony Ellis said the 31-year-old Australian citizen was now questioning his decision to plead guilty.
Ellis said the gunman told him the pleas had been lodged under duress because he had been subjected to “inhuman and degrading treatment” while in custody.
“He has decided that the simplest way out is to plead guilty,” Ellis told Radio New Zealand.
Armed with semi-automatic weapons, Tarrant attacked worshipers at Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque and Linwood prayer center in March 2019 on Friday, broadcasting the killings live as he left. His victims were all Muslims and included children, women and the elderly.
Ellis apparently took over as Tarrant’s lawyer ahead of a coroner’s investigation into the attacks and advised his client to exercise his right of appeal.
He said Tarrant gave him about 15 pages of detailed descriptions of his alleged abuse.
“By this he means that he was subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment while in detention, which prevented a fair trial,” Ellis wrote in a memorandum to the chief coroner last week, according to Stuff, a New Zealander media outlet.
In the note to the coroner, Ellis stressed that every accused or convicted person is entitled to exercise his right of access to court.
“He was sentenced to more than 25 years, it’s a sentence of no hope and it’s not allowed, it’s a violation of the Bill of Rights,” Ellis said.
New Zealand does not have the death penalty and with sentencing in August last year, Judge Cameron Mander said he was imposing the strictest possible stipulation for Tarrant’s “inhuman” actions.
“Your crimes are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die, it will not exhaust the requirements of punishment and condemnation,” Mander said at the time.
Ellis declined to comment when contacted by the AFP news agency, saying his client had instructed him to speak only to selected local media.
There was no immediate response from the Coroners Court.
Abdullah Naeem, whose brother and father were killed in the attacks, told Stuff that the convicted killer was “playing games”.
Speaking on behalf of the Whānau Trust of March 15, Naeem said he hoped the law would stop the appeal from continuing so that families would not have to go through more trauma.
“Life imprisonment is a light punishment for what he did,” he said. “Any good law will deny his plea and I hope it happens.”