A New Zealand court today sentenced a man to 21 months in prison for sharing a video of the white-supremacist terrorist attacks that killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch.
As we noted in previous coverage, New Zealand and many other countries don’t have US-style free-speech protections.
After the mosque shootings on March 15, New Zealand’s chief censor determined that a 17-minute video livestreamed during the shooting is objectionable under the country’s law.
“It’s illegal to have a copy of the video or document, or to share these with others,” the New Zealand government explained.
Philip Arps, 44, was one of the New Zealanders arrested for sharing the video. He received the 21-month prison sentence at Christchurch District Court.
A CBS News/Associated Press report explained today:
Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said that, when questioned about the video, Arps had described it as “awesome” and showed no empathy toward the victims. The judge said Arps had strong and unrepentant views about the Muslim community and had compared himself to Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader under Adolf Hitler.
“Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” the judge said.
O’Driscoll said Arps had sent the video to 30 associates. The judge said Arps also asked somebody to insert crosshairs and include a kill count in order to create an Internet meme, although there was no evidence he’d shared the meme.
Arps left pigs’ heads at mosque in 2016
This wasn’t Arps’ first brush with the law. Arps was previously “convicted of offensive behavior and fined $800” after a March 2016 incident involving the Al Noor mosque, the same mosque where 42 people were killed in this year’s terrorist attack, The New Zealand Herald reported recently.
The 2016 incident involved “delivery of boxes of pigs’ heads by Hitler-saluting men who boasted ‘Bring on the cull,'” the Herald wrote.
“Arps was accompanied during his 2016 visit to the mosque by two associates who stood on the doorsteps of the mosque delivering Hitler salutes for the camera,” the report said. They had video taken of themselves so it could “be shared within the 20-strong cell of local neo-Nazis.”
Arps will appeal prison sentence
Arps’ lawyer, Anselm Williams, said that Arps will appeal the sentence and “asserted that Mr. Arps had received a sentence of prison, rather than home detention, because of his white-supremacist beliefs, not his actions,” The New York Times reported today.
Arps owns an insulation company. Shortly after the March 2019 attacks, members of the public complained to police “that vans belonging to the insulation company he owns were decorated with a Nazi symbol,” the Times wrote. “Employees at the company wore camouflage uniforms, and its promotional materials featured other white supremacist symbols and references.”
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutors asked for prison time instead of home detention. “The Crown prosecutor Shivani Dayal said that, because of Arps’ extreme ideological outlook, there was no prospect of his rehabilitation and his sentence should rule out home detention,” Christchurch Court News reported.
Williams acknowledged that Arps violated New Zealand law by distributing the video, but he argued that “the court had to be careful to sentence Arps on the basis of what he had done and not for the views he held,” the news site wrote.
Arps has been jailed since his arrest in March. In addition to the 21-month prison sentence, “Arps faces six months of post-release conditions when he must attend psychological assessment, not access the Internet, and undergo assessment and counseling for alcohol and drug use,” Christchurch Court News wrote.
In all, New Zealand police have “warned or charged” 13 people “for distributing objectionable content in relation to the shootings,” the Times wrote.
ISPs, websites block shooting video
After the attack, Internet service providers in Australia and New Zealand blocked access to websites that hosted video of the shootings.
The gunman streamed the shooting on Facebook Live, and the stream was viewed 4,000 times before being removed. Within the first 24 hours after the attack, Facebook said it removed 1.5 million copies of the video.
Twenty-eight-year-old Brenton Tarrant pleaded not guilty to the attacks last week and is set to face a trial in May 2020. The charges against him are 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and terrorism.