A Muslim whose wife was killed in the March 15 terror attacks has met with a man who threatened to car bomb Christchurch mosques on the shooting's anniversary and told him that he is forgiven.
Farid Ahmed, who famously forgave the Australian terrorist who killed 51 people on March 15, 2019, sat down with the 28-year-old Christchurch man who threatened to kill local Muslims earlier this year.
The offender apologised, shared a cup of tea, and there were tears after "owning the wrong" which retraumatised the victims, a court heard today.
"We simply want to live in peace without further trauma," said Ahmed, whose wife Husna was killed in the attack at the Al Noor Mosque.
She had guided the women and children to safety and ran back in several times to find her husband.
Farid had managed to escape and was hiding just metres from where his wife was gunned down.
The man, who has name suppression, was sentenced at Christchurch District Court this afternoon after pleading guilty to a charge of threatening to kill, dating back to online threats made on message board 4Chan on February 28, and of supplying an objectionable publication, namely Brenton Tarrant's so-called "manifesto", via Facebook to "associates" on February 21. The document was banned after the attacks, having been categorised as objectionable under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act.
After officers raided the man's house, his phone was searched and found to contain "several racist memes and pictures".
Checks of his social media accounts found similar material, the court heard.
His lawyer Anselm Williams said the offending was borne out of isolation and use of alcohol, while Judge Raoul Neave said it was clear he'd "become isolated and increasingly detached from reality".
He'd been "sucked into the black hole of the internet" and had struggled to find a way out, the judge said.
Ahmed had a statement read aloud to the court today.
"I do not support what [the offender] has done - I wish he didn't do it to anyone," Ahmed said.
But he believes that the offender has taken responsibility for what he did and has "promised to take the peaceful path".
Ahmed felt relieved after meeting the man, who he believes needs "healing and correction".
A forensic psychiatrist who prepared a report for the court had identified a "pathway to deradicalise" the man, the court heard.
Judge Neave imposed a sentence of intensive supervision for two years because "clearly there is a lot of work to do".
The man is also banned from using the internet, at least in the short-term, and from going within 100m of a mosque or Islamic centre, while he must also adhere to a number of other conditions, including judicial monitoring.
Name suppression will continue for another year to enable the man's ongoing rehabilitation and will be reviewed as part of the judicial monitoring process.
Since the man's arrest, which came after tip-offs from the public, police and spy agencies have been criticised for failing to detect the threats themselves.
But they have all responded by saying the job is too big to manage alone – and that the public plays a large role in helping alert them to threats – so they can assess the information and react appropriately.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15, 2019, terrorist attack criticised security agencies for having previously deployed "an inappropriate concentration of resources" probing Islamic extremism whereas white supremacy had been considered just a fringe threat.
It resulted in SIS director general Rebecca Kitteridge apologising to the Muslim community and stressing that "significant areas" needed change.
Also in the wake of the attacks, police launched a specialised unit utilising artificial intelligence (AI) technology to scour New Zealanders' Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and other social media channels, as well as online platforms such as 4chan.