Crime & Justice

Wellington had been trying for years to deport terrorist

Sydney, Australia, Sep 5 (EFE).- The New Zealand government had been trying for years to deport the terrorist who stabbed shoppers in a west Auckland supermarket last week, the country’s prime minister said Sunday.

Court suppression orders lifted late Saturday identified the man as 32-year-old Sri Lankan Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen.

Samsudeen, who the government said was inspired by ISIS terror group, injured seven people with a knife before he was shot dead by police within a minute of the attack starting on Friday. Four people remained in hospital Sunday, two in critical condition.

Police had been tasked with watching him around the clock since his release from jail in July, after the government said all legal avenues to continue his detention had been exhausted.

Samsudeen entered New Zealand on a student visa in October 2011, and soon after applied for refugee status, which was denied as immigration authorities found his claim “lacking in credibility,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Sunday. However, it was granted on appeal in 2013.

In 2016, the man came to the attention of police after he expressed sympathy on Facebook for recent terrorist attacks, violent war-related videos, and comments advocating violent extremism.

“In the course of these investigations, Immigration New Zealand were made aware of information that led them to believe the individual’s refugee status was fraudulently obtained. The process was started to cancel his refugee status, and with it, his right to stay in New Zealand,” Ardern said.

In 2017, he was arrested at Auckland International Airport as police believed he was heading to Syria, and over the next years Samsudeen was charged on various occasions with a raft of offenses including possessing objectionable material, possessing an offensive weapon, and assaulting corrections officers.

His refugee status was canceled in 2019 and he was served a deportation notice, which he appealed while in prison, but “for a number of reasons, the deportation appeal could not proceed until after the conclusion of the criminal trial in May 2021,” Ardern said.

In May 2021, he was convicted for possession of objectionable material, and in July, having spent three years in custody awaiting his trials, he was sentenced to 12 months’ supervision under strict conditions and released into the community, triggering the more than 50-day police surveillance operation.

As government agencies knew he was a threat to the public and that his appeal may take some time, authorities “explored whether the Immigration Act might allow them to detain the individual while his deportation appeal was heard,” Ardern said.

“It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating when legal advice came back to say this wasn’t an option,” she added. “Since 2018 ministers have been seeking advice on our ability to deport this individual.”

In recent months the government had been working to hurry through changes to terrorism laws, aiming to make planning and preparing for a terror attack illegal, and now wants to get it done by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Samsudeen’s family in Sri Lanka issued a statement to New Zealand media, saying they were “heartbroken by this terrible event” and that they hope to find out “what we all could’ve done to prevent this.”

“We are thinking of the boy who left us and the innocent people (who) were injured (…) Our lives have changed forever,” they said. “May we all heal from this together.” EFE


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