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The defence team for the Christchurch gunman have decided not to pursue a change of venue for the trial that is set to begin in June next year. On Thursday this week, the accused appeared in a pre-trial hearing via a visual-audio link in the Christchurch High Court. His defence team elected to abandon their application for a change of trial venue, and Justice Cameron Mander dismissed the application, according to One News. Typically, a trial will take place in the area where the crime occurred. However, under the Criminal Procedure Act, a Judge can move the trial to another area if it is in the interests of justice to do so. That was not the case here.
The shooter has pleaded not guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of engaging in a terrorist act. This is after the horrible events that happened at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch in March of this year.
Victims of the attack are reportedly pleased that the trial will remain in Christchurch, according to Stuff News. Feroze Ditta, the general secretary of the Canterbury Muslim Association, said that it was important that members of the Muslim community were able to attend if they wanted to.
It means that “the community will be able to attend and be part of the ongoing court process, whereas if it was moved from Christchurch it would be a logistical nightmare for people to get there, it would have been quite hard,” he said.
The trial process will no doubt re-open wounds for many, and be a very emotionally traumatic process. However, the victims and survivors must be able to get the closure they need and to feel like their voices have been heard in the process of getting justice for the horrific events this man caused. Having the trial in Christchurch lends itself to that.
It is imperative that the trial is handled appropriately by media, in the interests of reducing the spread of the white supremacist ideals of the shooter. This man will likely “play the game” as Yama Nabi puts it, whose father Haji-Daoud Nabi was killed in the terror attack. This trial will be highly publicised, and this process must not be taken advantage of. Nor can it encourage those of a similar mindset to the shooter. We are already seeing further racist actions against the Muslim community, an example being the defacing of a mosque in Brisbane directly referencing the attacks, as reported by the Brisbane Times.
To prevent this, New Zealand media organisations have signed a protocol for reporting on the trial, that includes “limiting any coverage of statements that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology,” according to Stuff. This is a step in the right direction. In the interests of peace and preventing any further attacks of this nature, care needs to be taken not to condone or encourage xenophobic and white supremacist sentiments in any way.