A justice report concerning a man in New Zealand inspired by the Islamic State group warned that he had the motivation and the means to commit acts of violence in the community and was at high risk.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – A judicial report regarding a man in New Zealand inspired by the Islamic State group warned that he had the motivation and the means to commit acts of violence in the community and that he presented high risk.
The report described the man as having extreme attitudes, living an isolated lifestyle and feeling a sense of entitlement.
However, a judge’s job in July was to convict the man for the relatively minor crimes he committed at the time, not potential future crimes. She decided to release him under the supervision of a mosque chief who promised to try to help her.
Authorities’ fears were confirmed on Friday when the man walked into an Auckland supermarket, grabbed a knife and stabbed six people, seriously injuring three.
Because the police continued to be deeply concerned about the man, they had monitored and followed him around the clock. They were able to intervene and shoot him within 60 seconds of the start of his attack.
Court documents are beginning to explain why the man the authorities feared so much was able to roam free.
However, much of the man’s legal history – including even his name – remains subject to court orders preventing publication.
Other pieces of the puzzle likely lie in this hidden legal story, including the loopholes in New Zealand’s counterterrorism laws, which experts say are too focused on punishing crimes and unsuitable for managing conspiracies.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she is seeking to make the man’s full legal story public as soon as possible.
Ardern said the man, a Sri Lankan national, first moved to New Zealand in 2011 and security agencies began monitoring him in 2016.
According to a July conviction report, the man spent three years in prison for unspecified reasons.
This year, a jury found him guilty of two counts of possessing objectionable videos, both of which showed footage of the Islamic State group, including the group’s flag and a man in a black hood holding a semi-automatic weapon.
High Court Judge Sally Fitzgerald described the content as nasheeds, or religious hymns, sung in Arabic. She said the videos depicted obtaining martyrdom on the battlefield by being killed for the cause of Allah.
The judge said she rejected arguments that the man had simply stumbled upon the videos and was trying to improve his Arabic. She said an aggravating factor was that he was out on bail for previous similar offenses and tried to delete his internet browser history.
However, the videos did not show violent killings like some Islamic State videos and were not categorized as the worst type of illicit material.
The judge noted the extreme concerns of the police, saying they did not know if they were right, but “I sincerely hope they are not.”
Eventually, Fitzgerald sentenced the man to one year of surveillance at an Auckland mosque, where a leader had confirmed his willingness to help and support the man upon his release.
The judge also banned the man from owning devices that can access the internet, except with the written approval of a probation officer, and ordered that he give access to any social media accounts he held.
“I am of the opinion that the risk of you reoffending in the same way as the charges for which you were convicted remains high,” the judge concluded. “Your rehabilitation is therefore essential.”
Two months later, the man traveled from the mosque to the Countdown supermarket in the suburb of Glen Eden, followed from a distance by police special tactics officers. Then he unleashed an attack that shocked a nation.