NZ PM vows mosque attacker will face full force of law

Six bodies released to families after delay

Agence France-Presse . Christchurch | Published: 10:53, Mar 19,2019 | Updated: 00:25, Mar 20,2019


New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern meets with Muslim community leaders after the Parliament session in Wellington on March 19, 2019. — AFP photo

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern promised on Tuesday that the man responsible for last week’s deadly mosque massacres would face ‘the full force of the law’, as she vowed never to utter his name.
‘He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety - that is why you will never hear me mention his name,’ Ardern said in an emotional address to a special meeting of parliament, which she opened with the Arabic greeting ‘as salaam aleikum’ - ‘peace be upon you’.
‘I implore you - speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them,’ she told the gathering in Wellington, four days after the massacre in the southern city of Christchurch.
‘He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,’ she said.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, was captured by police and has been charged with one count of murder, but Ardern assured parliament other charges would follow.
‘He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,’ she said.
Ardern has promised reforms to New Zealand gun laws which allowed Tarrant to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack, including semi-automatic rifles.
And she announced a full review of how the Australian - an avowed white supremacist - was able to plan and carry out the attacks in New Zealand under the radar of security services.
‘The person who committed these acts was not from here. He was not raised here. He did not find his ideology here. But that is not to say that those very same views do not live here,’ she said.
The bodies of six of the Christchurch massacre victims have been released to their families, New Zealand police said Tuesday, but they warned only a fraction of the 50 people killed had been fully identified, with the delay angering anguished relatives.
Muslims whose loved ones were gunned down by an Australian white supremacist at two mosques last Friday have had their grief compounded by the failure of the authorities to return bodies to families in time for a speedy burial, as required under Islamic custom.
Police in Christchurch said only 12 of the 50 victims had been identified, and appeared to warn next of kin to brace for further delays.
‘We are doing all we can to undertake this work as quickly as possible and return the victims to their loved ones,’ a police statement said.
‘While identification may seem straightforward the reality is much more complex, particularly in a situation like this.’
But the forensic delays are casting a cloud over New Zealand’s handling of the horrific ordeal.
Dozens of relatives of the deceased have already begun arriving from around the world ahead of expected funerals which have already been delayed far beyond the 24 hours after death usually observed under Islam.
Peter Elms of New Zealand’s immigration department said 65 visas had been granted for overseas family members so far.
Christchurch police said post-mortems had been completed on all 50 victims.
But only 12 had been ‘identified to the satisfaction of the coroner’ nearly a week after the rampage.
Javed Dadabhai, who travelled from Auckland to help bury his cousin, said families and volunteers had been warned of a slow process.
‘The majority of people still have not had the opportunity to see their family members,’ he said.
Mohamed Safi, 23, whose father Matiullah Safi died in Al Noor mosque, pleaded for officials to let him identify his father and set a date for his burial.
‘There’s nothing they are offering,’ Safi, an Afghan refugee, said outside a family support centre.
‘They are just saying they are doing their procedures, they are doing their process. But what process? Why do I not know what you are going through to identify the body... Why am I not contacted as an immediate family member?’
In a rambling manifesto, the gunman had said he was motivated partly by a desire to stoke a violent response from Muslims and a religious war between Islam and the West.
The Islamic State group, in a message on social media, appeared to encourage retaliatory attacks.
‘The scenes of killing in the two mosques... incite members of the caliphate living there to avenge their religion and the children of the umma (Muslims) who were are being slaughtered in all corners of the earth with the sponsorship and blessing of the Crusader countries,’ it said.
Following the mass shooting, Ardern has promised to reform New Zealand laws that allowed the gunman to legally purchase weapons used in the attack.
New Zealanders have already begun answering government appeals to hand in their weapons, including John Hart, a farmer in the North Island district of Masterton.
Hart said it was an easy decision for him to hand in his semi-automatic
and tweeted: ‘on the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse. We don’t need these in our country.’
The tweet drew a barrage of derogatory messages to his Facebook account - most apparently from the US, where the pro-gun lobby is powerful.
Ardern has said details of the proposed reform will be announced by next week, but she indicated they could include gun buybacks and a ban on some semi-automatic rifles.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email