Sydney, Australia, Nov 8 (EFE).- The Australian man sentenced to life in prison for carrying out a terror attack against two New Zealand mosques in 2019 is considering an appeal, claiming his guilty pleas were made under duress, his lawyer has said.
Attorney Tony Ellis said in a memo to Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall, who is in charge of a coronial inquiry into the attack, that his client Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty to the murder of 51 people because of the inhumane and degrading treatment he experienced while awaiting trial, national broadcaster Radio New Zealand reported Monday.
Ellis, under Tarrant’s instructions, said the shooter’s guilty pleas were obtained under “duress,” it added.
Having recently assumed Tarrant’s defense, Ellis said that he had advised his client to appeal the life sentence without parole handed to him in August last year, as well as his convictions for 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of committing a terrorist act, as it violated the Bill of Rights. He added that Tarrant was considering it.
The attorney said that Tarrant was “subject to inhumane or degrading treatment whilst on remand, which prevented a fair trial” and which in turn constituted a breach of his rights.
Ellis also claimed that important inquiry documents were withheld from Tarrant by the Department of Corrections and said that a lack of access to legal counsel, documentation and information due to him being held in solitary confinement would impact his ability to participate in the inquiry.
The memo also touched upon the chief coroner’s use of “The Individual” to refer to Tarrant in official documents.
The documents of the government commission that investigated the attack do not directly name Tarrant. After his conviction, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged people not to mention his name to prevent him from gaining the notoriety he sought.
“It is not the least bit dignified, to be stripped of your name, it is an inherent part of your identity, and shows no respect for Mr Tarrant,” his lawyer said, stressing that the extremist had already been tried and sentenced and therefore “is entitled to be treated as a human.”
In response, the judge said that using that terminology was neither a “serious breach of human rights” nor relevant to the scope of the inquiry.
The chief coroner will meet Tarrant’s counsel next month.
On March 15, 2019, Tarrant stormed the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch with military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles and shot Muslim worshipers gathering for their traditional Friday prayers.
The terrorist, who had published his white supremacist ideology on social media, also livestreamed part of the attack that led to the Christchurch Call against violence and hate on the internet, and law reform pertaining to possession and use of firearms in the country. EFE