Crime & Justice

New Zealand begins inquest into Christchurch terror attack

Sydney, Australia, Oct 24 (EFE).- A coronial inquest into the 2019 Christchurch terror attack on two mosques in which 91 people were killed or wounded began on Tuesday with a round of public hearings.

At the opening hearing, held amid a heavy police presence in a Christchurch court, tribute was paid to the victims of the attack in which Australian Brenton Tarrant indiscriminately fired semi-automatic weapons at worshipers in al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in the South Island city, killing 51 people and wounding 40.

The terrorist also posted his white supremacist manifesto to social media before his attack and livestreamed his massacre on Facebook via bodycam.

In her opening address on Tuesday, deputy chief Coroner Brigitte Windley said she is “acutely aware” of the responsibility of her role in the process in which many emotions are expected to surface among the family members, emergency services personnel and witnesses who have been affected by Tarrant’s “deliberate and heinous actions.”

“The scale and complexity of this inquiry is unprecedented in this court,” Windley said, according to public broadcaster RNZ.

The inquest aims to find the causes and circumstances of the deaths.

“In identifying the contributors to death, the opportunity to fulfill another fundamental purpose of a coronial inquiry may arise. To look to the future, whether comments or recommendations may be made, to reduce the chances of further deaths in similar circumstances,” she said.

The first phase of the inquest, which will last until Dec. 15, will focus on 10 key issues related to the response of the emergency services and the police on the day of the attack.

These include analyzing the events of the incident; the coordination, response times, entry processes and actions of emergency services at each mosque; steps taken to apprehend the offender; whether the terrorist had any direct assistance from any other person; the final movements and time and cause of death for each of the deceased; and whether any deaths could have been avoided, according to the Coronial Services.

The first witness to testify was Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Farrant, who said the attack was “the single largest terrorist incident and mass homicide that New Zealand has experienced.”

“This involved the largest response operation every undertaken by the New Zealand Police,” he added, according to RNZ.

About 20 lawyers representing 140 interested parties are expected to participate in the investigation and hundreds of documents will be analyzed.

In a statement, the March 15 Whanau (family) Trust that works with the victims’ kin, stressed the “urgent need for answers” to the issues surrounding the attack.

“Our paramount concern is to comprehend the truth. The families of the Shaheed (deceased) are united in their pursuit of understanding, seeking clarity on whether their loved ones could have survived. This pursuit of truth is crucial for healing and closure,” it said.

The hearings do not seek to establish liability or negligence, but rather to establish the truth of what happened with a view to formulating a series of conclusions and recommendations.

Soon after the attack, gun ownership laws were changed in New Zealand, and the “Christchurch Call” initiative to fight online hate was launched. EFE


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