Astralian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who killed 50 people in a terror attack targeting two New Zealand mosques during Friday prayers last week, briefly visited Israel in 2016, Israeli officials confirmed on Monday.
Tarrant arrived on a three-month tourist visa and stayed in Israel for nine days in October 2016, immigration authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said. She was not able to provide further details on the visit by the 28-year-old.
Although the attacker grew up in Grafton, Australia, he had spent only 45 days in the country over the last three years and was not on any terror watch lists, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said on Monday.
Social media posts suggested that Tarrant’s travels included trips to North Korea, Croatia, Pakistan, Bulgaria, and Greece, among others.
The Australian was charged with murder over the worst modern-day massacre in New Zealand in which 50 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.
The attack has shocked New Zealanders, who are used to seeing a total of around 50 murders a year in the country of 4.8 million people, and pride themselves on living in a secure and welcoming place.
Terrorist sacks lawyer
It emerged today that Tarrant has sacked his state-appointed lawyer and will represent himself in court.
Richard Peters, who had represented Tarrant during a hearing on Saturday, told AFP the attacker “wants to be self-represented in this case”.
“The way he presented was rational and someone who was not suffering any mental disability. He seemed to understand what was going on,” Peters said.
Under New Zealand law, if Tarrant pleads not guilty, his case would normally go to trial, raising the possibility that he could face survivors and victims’ families in court.
Tarrant faces an “unprecedented” sentence that bars him from ever applying for release, but could yet dodge terror charges, legal experts told AFP. He has been charged with one initial count of murder. In New Zealand, being found guilty of murder usually comes with a minimum of 10 years in jail before possible parole.
But legal experts said Tarrant’s alleged crimes were so extreme they could warrant the heaviest sentence imposed by a judge in the South Pacific nation since the abolition of the death penalty in 1961. “He may be sentenced to imprisonment without parole. There is a very significant possibility,” criminal lawyer Simon Cullen told AFP, adding that such a sentence would be “unprecedented”.
“This would seem to be… the type of situation that may well attract consideration of that type of sentence.”
The longest-ever murder sentence imposed in New Zealand was in 2001 when a judge sentenced William Bell to life imprisonment with a 30-year minimum term for a triple murder.
University of Auckland criminal procedure expert Bill Hodge said despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labelling the massacre an act of terrorism — prosecutors may shy away from terror charges.
The Terrorism Suppression Act was only introduced in 2002, after the US 9/11 attacks and is untested in the courts. “We haven’t used our terrorism laws previously and the laws are designed to inhibit or prosecute those involved with groups and financing and publications and the like,” Hodge told AFP.