Christchurch gunman sends letter from jail; officials admit mistake

Brenton Tarrant is accused of killing 51 at two mosques

Wellington, August 14 

New Zealand officials admitted on Wednesday that they made a mistake by allowing the man accused of killing 51 persons at two Christchurch mosques to send a hand-written letter from his prison cell.

The six-page letter from Brenton Tarrant was posted this week on the website 4chan, which has become notorious as a place for white supremacists to post their views. And it comes at a sensitive time, with other alleged killers from El Paso to Norway citing Tarrant as an inspiration. The letter appears to be written in pencil on a small notepad and is addressed to “Alan” in Russia. Much of it appears to be relatively innocuous, discussing a one-month trip Tarrant says he took to Russia in 2015.

But the letter also warns that a “great conflict” is coming and uses language that could be construed as a call to arms. Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said he didn't believe the prison system should have allowed Tarrant to send the letter. “I have made myself clear that this cannot happen again.”

But Davis also said that all New Zealand prisoners have rights that include the ability to send and receive mail. He said the prison system has the ability to withhold correspondence and withheld some other letters Tarrant had attempted to send or receive. “  We have never had to manage a prisoner like this before — and I have asked questions around whether our laws are now fit for purpose and asked for advice on what changes we may now need to make,” Davis said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed never to utter Tarrant's name in order to deny him the publicity she says he craves, making Tarrant’s letter even more of an embarrassment for the government.

It's not the first misstep by New Zealand authorities in the case. Police initially filed a single representative murder charge against Tarrant but mistakenly named somebody who was still alive before later amending the charge.  Tarrant remains in jail ahead of his trial, which has been scheduled for May.  — AP

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