A businessman in New Zealand has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for sharing footage of the Christchurch mosque attacks, which saw a lone gunman livestream the massacre of 51 Muslims during Friday prayers on March 15.
Philip Arps, 44, was sentenced during a court hearing in Christchurch on Tuesday after having earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of distributing objectionable material.
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New Zealand’s government has outlawed the sharing of videos of the massacre, with such an offence punishable by up to 14 years in jail.
In addition to sharing the footage with about 30 people, Arps also possessed a doctored clip of the attacks featuring crosshairs and a “kill count”, the court heard.
“Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said.
O’Driscoll added that Arps – a self-described white supremacist who argued he had a right to distribute the video under the banner of freedom to pursue his political beliefs – had described the footage as “awesome” and possessed strong and unrepentant views about the Muslim community.
According to court documents, Arps had been charged with “offensive behaviour” in 2016 and fined NZ$800 ($543) after he delivered a bloodied pig’s head to Christchurch’s Al Noor mosque, one of the two places of worship attcked in March.
Arps’ lawyer Anselm Williams argued his client should not be sent to prison.
“It’s my submission that this court needs to be very careful to sentence Mr Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds,” Williams said.
Williams later told The Associated Press news agency his client had filed an appeal against his sentence at the High Court but declined to comment further.
Tuesday’s case came after Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, 28, pleaded not guilty last week to 92 charges stemming from the March massacres – New Zealand’s worst peacetime mass shooting. He is expected to face trial in May next year.
The attack was livestreamed on Facebook from a head-mounted camera. Despite the original video being taken down by the social media company, the content was quickly replicated and shared widely on several other platforms, including YouTube and Twitter.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has helped lead a global pledge named the “Christchurch Call,” aimed at boosting efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organise hardline groups and broadcast attacks.
New Zealand has also tightened its gun laws and banned certain types of semi-automatic weapons since the attack.