2021-09-30 11:27:44 After Knife Attack, New Zealand Criminalizes Terror Plotting

After Knife Attack, New Zealand Criminalizes Terror Plotting

On Thursday, New Zealand lawmakers passed legislation making terrorist plotting a crime, closing a legal gap that drew increased scrutiny after a knife attack in early September.

The new law had been in the works for months, but it was rushed through Parliament after an extremist inspired by the Islamic State terror group grabbed a knife and began stabbing shoppers in an Auckland supermarket on Sept. 3. In the ensuing chaos, he injured five people and injured two more.

The attacker, Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen, was shot and killed by police officers after they said they confronted him in the supermarket and he charged at them with a knife. Authorities had been tracking him for weeks, fearing that he would launch an attack at any time after being released from prison in July. The police, on the other hand, had found no legal reason to detain him.

Prosecutors had tried unsuccessfully a year before to charge Mr. Samsudeen, a Sri Lankan national, with terrorism after he purchased a large hunting knife and was discovered with violent Islamic State videos.

Prosecutors contended that there was evidence that he bought the knife with the intent of killing people and furthering an ideological cause. However, a judge ruled that the act of purchasing a knife was insufficient to proceed with the case.

The judge determined that New Zealand’s anti-terrorism legislation did not specifically cover plots. That “could be an Achilles’ heel,” the judge admitted at the time, adding that it was not for a court to make new laws.

Following the September 3 attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed to pass new legislation by the end of the month. Her government, she claimed, had begun attempting to expedite the bill’s passage even before the attack.

Ms. Ardern, on the other hand, stated that even if the new law had been in place, Mr. Samsudeen might not have been stopped.

“This bill strengthens our counterterrorism laws to better prevent and respond,” said Ginny Andersen, a Labour Party lawmaker. “These changes will also allow police to intervene sooner. I believe it is a good thing if it saves lives and makes New Zealanders safer.”

On Thursday, the conservative National Party joined Labour in voting in favor of the bill, which passed by a vote of 98 to 22. However, some of Ms. Ardern’s long-standing liberal allies in Parliament voted against it.

The Green Party expressed concern that the legislation had been rushed through without adequate consultation, and that the definition of terrorism had been broadened to the point where it could include “direct action, activism, and protest.”

The Greens also expressed concern that some experts had labeled the new offense a “thought crime,” and that accompanying powers allowing authorities to conduct warrantless searches increased the risk of human rights violations.

The new crime of plotting a terrorist attack carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The bill also makes travel to or from New Zealand to carry out an attack, as well as the possession of weapons or combat training for a terrorist attack, illegal.

Ms. Ardern has also been looking into whether changes to New Zealand’s deportation laws and policies are needed, given that the authorities revoked Mr. Samsudeen’s refugee status in 2019 on the grounds of fraud and ordered him deported back to Sri Lanka. Mr. Samsudeen’s appeal was still pending when he launched his attack.

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After Knife Attack, New Zealand Criminalizes Terror Plotting