WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – The gunman who killed 51 worshipers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, is considering appealing his convictions and prison sentence, his lawyer said Monday.
Australian Brenton Tarrant was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in prison, which prompted him to plead guilty under duress, lawyer Tony Ellis wrote in a note to the chief coroner.
Tarrant, a white supremacist, streamed the 2019 attacks on Facebook. It was the worst atrocity in New Zealand’s modern history and prompted lawmakers to quickly ban the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.
Last year, before the trial began, Tarrant pleaded guilty to all counts, including 51 counts of homicide, 40 counts of attempted homicide and one counts of terrorism. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the toughest sentence available in New Zealand.
The attorney’s note was not immediately made public on Monday. Ellis said the gunman had authorized him to discuss the case with only two local media outlets, RNZ and Stuff.
The coroner’s office did not immediately release a copy of the memorandum, deferring the requests to Ellis. But the coroner’s office did not contest the existence of the memorandum or its characterization by the media.
RNZ reported that Ellis had advised his client to appeal the sentence and convictions on the grounds that his rights had been violated and that Tarrant was considering a similar appeal.
Ellis said the gunman was held in solitary confinement most of the time pending his trial and had no access to lawyers, information and documentation on his case.
The gunman told his lawyer that the treatment in prison affected his “willingness to move forward” and decided the easiest way out was to plead guilty, RNZ reported.
The note came after chief coroner Deborah Marshall’s office last month opened an investigation into the deaths of the victims, the latest in a series of investigations into the attacks.
Rosemary Omar, whose 24-year-old son Tariq was shot dead in the Al Noor mosque, told RNZ that the gunman’s claims were nothing more than seeking further attention.