Brenton Tarrant sent letter from prison to supporter

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Wellington: New Zealand officials admitted on Wednesday that they made a mistake by allowing the man accused of killing 51 people at two Christchurch mosques to send a hand-written letter from his prison cell.

The six-page letter from Brenton Tarrant was posted this week on the website 4chan, which has become notorious as a place for white supremacists to post their views. And it comes at a sensitive time, with other alleged killers from El Paso to Norway citing Tarrant as an inspiration.

The Australian accused of committing the Christchurch terror attack has written to an alt-right supporter overseas from his prison cell.

The Australian accused of committing the Christchurch terror attack has written to an alt-right supporter overseas from his prison cell. Credit:David White/Stuff

The letter appears to be written in pencil on a small notepad and is addressed to "Alan" in Russia. Much of it appears to be relatively innocuous, discussing a one-month trip Tarrant says he took to Russia in 2015. But the letter also warns that a "great conflict" is coming and uses language that could be construed as a call to arms.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said in statement that he didn't believe the prison system should have allowed Tarrant to send the letter.

"I have made myself clear that this cannot happen again," Davis said.

But Davis also said that all New Zealand prisoners have rights that include the ability to send and receive mail. He said the prison system has the ability to withhold correspondence and withheld some other letters the Australian had attempted to send or receive.

"We have never had to manage a prisoner like this before – and I have asked questions around whether our laws are now fit for purpose and asked for advice on what changes we may now need to make," Davis said.

In the letter, dated July 4, Tarrant thanks "Alan" for postage stamps he apparently sent, saying they're the only two pieces of color in an otherwise grey cell and adds that he'll have to hide them from the guards.

Tarrant cites Plato and other philosophers and writers as inspiration for his views, and says he "cannot go into any great detail about regrets or feelings as the guards will confiscate my letter if I do" and use it as evidence.

In this June 14, 2019, file courtroom drawing, Brenton Tarrant appears via video link in court from a maximum security prison in Auckland.

In this June 14, 2019, file courtroom drawing, Brenton Tarrant appears via video link in court from a maximum security prison in Auckland.Credit:AP

Corrections said in a statement that it acknowledged this letter should have been withheld.

"We have made changes to the management of this prisoner's mail to ensure that our robust processes are as effective as we need them to be."

Every prisoner has legislatively required minimum entitlements, including sending and receiving mail, it said.

"A prison director can only withhold a prisoner's mail in a very limited range of circumstances. Some letters have been withheld."

Reasons for withholding a prisoner's mail include the material being threatening or intimidating, endangering the welfare of any person, or encouraging or promoting offending.

Corrections earlier said the alleged gunman has no access to television, radio or newspapers and no approved visitors.

Before the March 15 shootings, Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, posted a 74-page manifesto on the website 8chan in which he outlined his racist views and his beliefs that immigrants were invaders who would replace the white race.

8chan, seen as a more radical offshoot of 4chan, was effectively knocked offline this month after two companies cut off vital technical services in response to claims that the gunman who killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, posted a racist anti-Latino screed on the site just before the August 3rd killings.

Like the Texas gunman, a Norwegian man suspected of killing his stepsister and then storming an Oslo mosque with guns this month is also believed to have found inspiration in Tarrant's actions.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed never to utter Tarrant's name in order to deny him the publicity she says he craves, making Tarrant's letter even more of an embarrassment for the government.

It's not the first misstep by New Zealand authorities in the case. Police initially filed a single representative murder charge against Tarrant but mistakenly named somebody who was still alive before later amending the charge.

Tarrant has pleaded not guilty to terrorism, murder and attempted murder charges following the mosque attacks. He remains in jail ahead of his trial, which has been scheduled for May.

AP with Stuff.co.nz