NZ extends border exception for mosque attack sentencing

Wellington:¬†Overseas-based victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings will get special border passes to fly into New Zealand along with financial help to witness the gunman’s sentencing next month, the government announced on Friday.

“We want to support our valued Muslim brothers and sisters who were directly affected by this tragic event and understand that some who now offshore do want to attend the sentencing,” The New Zealand Herald quoted Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway as saying.

“We have quickly established a process to allow victims and a family member or support person to come to New Zealand using new humanitarian grounds. This is within our intent for the use of this provision,” he said.

The government also announced a one-off extension to the Victim Assistance Scheme, which will financially support more victims of the mosque attacks to travel to attend the sentencing, has also been announced this afternoon.

The extension enables all victims who were in the mosques at the time of the attacks to be eligible to receive contributions towards travel-related costs, rather than just being restricted to those who suffered gunshot injuries, and the families of the dead.

“This one-off exception recognises the unprecedented nature of the attacks and the trauma on all victims who were present. Sentencing is an important part of our justice process,” said the Ministry of Justice’s chief operating officer Carl Crafar.

The terrorist attack in Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019, the worst in New Zealand’s history, left 51 people dead.

Along with all 51 murders, the gunman has been convicted on 40 charges of attempted murder relating to the two attacks, reports The New Zealand Herald.

He pleaded guilty to one charge of engaging in a terrorist act laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

The sentencing had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was only confirmed by the courts last week.

New Zealand’s borders have been closed to everyone other than citizens and residents due to the health crisis.