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NZ man who shared ‘Christchurch Video’ jailed

By SJA Jafri + Agencies

CANBERRA/ WELLINGTON: A New Zealand man has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for sharing a video of the Christchurch massacre.

Philip Arps pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing the video, which was livestreamed on Facebook.

51 people were martyred in the attack at two Christchurch mosques in March.

Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said that when questioned about the video, Arps had described it as “awesome” and had shown no empathy toward the victims.

Justice O’Driscoll said the 44-year-old had strong and unrepentant views about the Muslim community and had, in effect, committed a hate crime.

“Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” he said.

The court heard that Arps — who had compared himself to Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess — had sent the video to 30 associates.

Justice O’Driscoll said Arps had also asked somebody to insert crosshairs and include a kill count in order to create an internet meme, although there was no evidence he had shared the meme.

Under legislation aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count.

According to court documents, Arps was charged with “offensive behaviour” and fined NZ$800 ($759) in 2016 after he delivered a bloodied pig’s head to Al Noor mosque, one of the mosques that was targeted in the mass shooting.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has led a global pledge named the “Christchurch Call”, aimed at boosting efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organise extremist groups and broadcast attacks.

In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, New Zealand also tightened its gun laws and banned military-style semi-automatic weapons of the kind used by the attacker.

Writing in the New York Times, Ms Ardern said his other weapon was “live-streaming the attack on social media to spread his hateful vision and inspire fear”.

She vowed to “end terrorist and extremist content online” with the cooperation of other world leaders and social media companies.

Local news site reported that Arps was just one of several New Zealanders facing charges for sharing the video in the wake of the Christchurch attack.

Arps had argued he had a right to distribute the video under the banner of freedom to pursue his political beliefs.

His defence lawyer Anselm Williams told the judge Arps should not be sent to prison.

“It’s my submission that this court needs to be very careful to sentence Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds,” Williams said.

After the hearing, Williams said Arps had filed an appeal against his sentence with New Zealand’s High Court, but declined to comment further.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, last week pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism.

His trial has been scheduled for May 2020.

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