New Zealand has passed a law that makes terrorist conspiracy a crime, correcting a legal loophole that was exposed earlier this month by a violent knife attack.
The new law had been in the works for months, but was hastily passed by Parliament after an Islamic State-inspired extremist seized a knife at an Auckland supermarket on September 3 and began stabbing people. buyers. He injured five while two others were injured in the chaos. All are still recovering.
Police officers shot and killed extremist Ahamed Aathil Samsudeen after saying they confronted him at the supermarket and loaded them with the knife. Authorities had been following him for 53 straight days, fearing that he would consider launching an attack any time after his release from prison in July. However, the police had found no legal reason to arrest him.
A year earlier, prosecutors had unsuccessfully tried to charge Samsudeen with terrorism after buying a large hunting knife and being found with violent videos from ISIS.
Prosecutors argued that there was evidence that he purchased the knife with the intention of killing people and promoting an ideological cause. But a judge ruled that the act of buying a knife was not enough to continue the case.
The judge found that New Zealand’s anti-terrorism laws did not specifically cover conspiracies. It “could be an Achilles heel,” the judge admitted at the time, adding that it was not for a court to create new laws.
After this month’s attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged to pass the new legislation by the end of September. But Ardern also said that even if the new law had been in place, it might not necessarily have stopped Samsudeen.
“This bill strengthens our anti-terrorism laws to better prevent and respond,” said lawmaker Ginny Andersen of the Liberal Labor Party. “And these changes will also allow the police to intervene earlier. If it saves lives and makes New Zealanders safer, I think that’s a good thing. “
New Zealand’s anti-terrorism laws date back to shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Changes to these laws were recommended after a 2019 attack, in which a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshipers in two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers.
The National Conservative Party joined Labor in voting for the bill, which passed 98 to 22. But some of Ardern’s traditional liberal allies in parliament voted against.
The Green Party said its members feared that the new law would be passed quickly without sufficient consultation and that the definition of terrorism had been expanded to the point where it could capture “direct action, ‘activism and protest’.
The Greens also said they feared some experts had branded the new offense a “crime of thought,” and that flanking powers allowing authorities to carry out warrantless searches would increase the risk of human rights violations. .
The new offense of planning a terrorist attack carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. The bill also criminalizes travel to or from New Zealand to carry out an attack, and weapons or combat training for a terrorist attack.
Ardern also examined whether changes were needed to New Zealand’s deportation laws and policies after authorities revoked Samsudeen’s refugee status on the basis of fraud in 2019 and ordered him to return him to the Sri Lanka. A call from Samsudeen was still pending when he launched his attack.