A Christchurch businessman has pleaded guilty to sharing a livestream video that was recorded by a gunman last month as he began killing 50 people at two New Zealand mosques.
Philip Arps pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing the mosque video and will remain in jail until he’s sentenced on June 14. He faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Prosecutors accused the 44-year-old of sending the video to an unknown person and instructing that person to insert crosshairs and to include a kill count. Prosecutors say he then forwarded the entire video to 30 associates.
The gunman mounted a helmet camera and livestreamed his attack on Facebook. The chilling 17-minute video was copied and viewed widely on the internet even as tech companies scrambled to remove it.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week said the shooter had used social media in an unprecedented way to promote an act of terrorism and hate.
New Zealand’s Chief Censor David Shanks banned both the video and a manifesto written by the white supremacist accused of the attack, making it illegal to view, possess or distribute either item in New Zealand. Few objected to the ban on the video, but many argue that banning the manifesto impinges on free speech rights.
At least six people have been charged with illegally sharing the video. Arps and one other person, an 18-year-old, were jailed in March while the other four have not been kept in custody.
The 18-year-old suspect is charged with sharing both the video and a still image of the Al Noor mosque where more than 40 people were killed with the words “target acquired.” He will reappear in court on July 31 when electronically monitored bail will be considered.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder in the attacks. His next court hearing has been scheduled for June 14.
Ardern announced this week that she and French President Emmanuel Macron will host a meeting in Paris next month seeking to eliminate acts of violent extremism and terrorism from being shown online.
Ardern said she and Macron will ask world leaders and chief executives of technology companies to agree to a pledge called the “Christchurch Call.” She hasn’t release any details of the pledge, saying they are still being developed.