Auckland terrorist named as suppression lapses

Source: 1News

The man who carried out a terrorist attack at a West Auckland supermarket on Friday can finally be named and we can reveal details as to why his name has been kept secret.

He was Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, aged 32.

A High Court order keeping his name secret lapsed at 11pm tonight, with family members deciding not to make an application to fight for continued name suppression.

Samsudeen is a Sri Lankan national and a Tamil Muslim. He arrived in New Zealand from Sri Lanka on 21 October 2011 on a student visa. He was granted status as a refugee and later obtained a residency visa.

He was granted refugee status on 20 December 2013 – officials persuaded by his claim that, due to his political background, he would face serious harm if he returned to Sri Lanka. It was accepted that he had been attacked, abducted, physically mistreated and humiliated in the past.

However, on 31 May 2018, the Refugee Status Branch served Samsudeen with a notice of their intention to cancel his refugee status. If his status as a refugee was cancelled, he would be deported to Sri Lanka.

On 3 July 2018, he was awaiting sentence in the High Court in Auckland and was granted name suppression as the court believed the publication of his name was likely to endanger his safety if he was subsequently deported back to Sri Lanka.

Samsudeen had appealed the notice of intention to cancel his refugee status and was awaiting completion of a hearing at the time of his death. Suppression orders, including in relation to his immigration status, now lifted following his death.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed it wasn’t known he held extremist views when he came to New Zealand.

Samsudeen first came to the attention of authorities less than five years after his arrival. Details of his offending have been listed in a raft of court documents.

Police formally warned Samsudeen on 29 April and 25 May 2016 after he posted Islamic State-related material on the internet, including videos and pictures of graphic war-related violence. He made comments advocating violent extremism and support for other terrorist attacks.

The formal warnings from police didn’t deter him and Samsudeen continued to post content under aliases, including on Facebook.

In early April 2017, he went into a retail store at an Auckland shopping centre where he applied for a Gem Visa credit card instore to purchase a phone. While filling out the application, he provided false employment details and was then issued a credit card with $6,000 credit.

A few days later, the man went to a retail store on Queen Street where he applied for a Q credit card to purchase a watch. Again, he gave false employment details and was given a credit card with $4,500 credit.

On 20 May 2017, after booking a one-way flight for himself, Samsudeen was arrested at Auckland International Airport, with police believing he was on his way to Syria. Police then carried out a search warrant at his apartment where they found a large hunting knife under a mattress that was on the floor, as well as digital files containing propaganda videos and a photo of him posing with a firearm.

Samsudeen was remanded in custody and on 29 June 2018 he pleaded guilty to representative charges of knowingly distributing restricted publications and failing to assist police officers exercising their search powers.

He was released on bail but he was arrested again on 9 August 2018 after he bought another hunting knife – the same type as the one found in the 2017 police search. He didn’t want to take the knife with him following his purchase, telling the vendor people might think he was a bad person, so arranged for it to be delivered by courier.

Another search warrant was executed and police uncovered more ISIS related content on devices in his apartment.

Samsudeen was kept in custody and was sentenced on 19 September 2018 to 12 months supervision having pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly using a document for a pecuniary advantage, two representative charges of knowingly distributing restricted material, and failing to assist a police officer exercising a search power.

A probation officer who interviewed him for a pre-sentence report said he lived an isolated lifestyle, had a high sense of entitlement and propensity for violence. He showed minimal insight into his offending and believed the charges he pleaded guilty to were “fake”.

Upon assessment, it was stated he posed a medium likelihood of reoffending but with a low risk of harm.

The judge noted he had already spent some 13 months in custody on remand, so a sentence of supervision was appropriate to encourage rehabilitation and reintegration. He would have been free to leave the court had it not been for the further charges he was facing following his second arrest in August 2018.

Samsudeen was charged with offences including possession of offensive weapons and possession of objectionable publications following the August 2018 arrest.

In July 2020, the Crown applied to add an additional charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, alleging on or about 9 August 2018, Samsudeen planned or otherwise prepared to cause death or serious bodily injury by purchasing a knife.

The Crown was unsuccessful, and it was rejected by the High Court. The judge noting that the absence of an offence under the Act of planning or preparing a terrorist act “could be an Achilles heel” and referencing both the United Kingdom and Australia as having such an offence.

At trial, he was found guilty of two charges of possessing an objectionable publication and one charge of failing to assist a police officer exercising a search power, and he was found not guilty of a third charge of possession of objectionable material and a charge of possessing a knife in a public place without reasonable excuse.

Samsudeen was before the court on 6 July 2021 for sentencing.

Another pre-sentence report provided to the court again noted his isolated lifestyle, sense of entitlement and propensity for violence. However, this time the report concluded that the risk of him re-offending was high, posing a very high risk of harm to others.

The Crown submitted that a sentence of intensive supervision with special conditions was appropriate, including GPS monitoring.

His lawyer disagreed, submitting that the risk of him fleeing the country was not apparent, therefore GPS monitoring (which was only available with a sentence of intensive supervision) was not a necessary condition.

By this stage, Samsudeen had been in custody for some three years – something all parties and the judge acknowledged.

Ultimately, due to the judge being “conscious of the lengthy time you have already spent in custody, and that I must impose the least restrictive sentence that is appropriate,” Samsudeen was sentenced to one year of supervision.

A number of special conditions were imposed including that he was to reside at an Auckland mosque where the President of that mosque was willing to help and support him on his release.

There were restrictions on his possession of electronic devices and social media accounts. He was also ordered to engage in a rehabilitative assessment, including psychological assessment which TVNZ understands did not take place prior to his death.

Again, he would have been free to leave the court had it not been for additional charges he was facing, this time at the Auckland District Court. He was remanded in custody.

In July 2020, around the same time the Crown applied to add the additional terrorism charge, he was before the Auckland District Court for assaulting and injuring Corrections Officers. The judge ordering suppression for the same reasons the High Court did back in 2018 – the court’s view that there was a real risk that if his refugee status was revoked, he would be deported to Sri Lanka and his safety compromised.

However, Friday’s events mean he will no longer face trial for these charges. His death prompting another urgent court meeting where the District Court lifted name suppression in line with the High Court’s decision – the risk he faced in relation to publication of his refugee status no longer existing. The police also intending to make an application for a stay, bringing the proceedings he faced in the District Court to a close.

His lawyer tried to make contact with his family within the 24 hours given by the court to notify them of the court’s decision, in particular his two brothers who live overseas.

It was revealed during the urgent court meeting that his family were told about the death of Samsudeen after a lawyer contacted them.