Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has refused to entertain a specific review of the failed efforts to rehabilitate the September 3 terrorist, which were interrupted before they truly began in 2018, Marc Daalder reports

In 2018, Aathill Samsudeen was sentenced to supervision for sharing graphic Isis propaganda on his Facebook page. When he was released from prison, Muslim community members began a detailed rehabilitation and deradicalisation programme.

Just weeks after Samsudeen was released, however, he was arrested again. This time he was held in prison for three years, during which his would-be rehabilitators were unable to access him in a consistent manner.

A month and a half after this latest period of detention ended, Samsudeen stabbed at least five people in a Countdown in New Lynn. He was shot dead by police minutes after the attack began.

In the aftermath of the attack, independent intelligence and law enforcement watchdogs have announced a joint review of the events leading up to the incident. This review, however, only starts with Samsudeen’s latest period of imprisonment and won’t cover the immense efforts from the Muslim community to prepare a deradicalisation plan that was ultimately tossed aside when Samsudeen was re-arrested.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said he isn’t able to influence the terms of the independent review but insisted questions about the deradicalisation effort would be encompassed by the Government’s response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 mosque shootings. The Royal Commission report was released in December 2020, prior to the September 3 attack.

“If we’re talking about the review of the incident that happened on the 3rd [of September], we don’t necessarily get to look at the confines of what will be looked at there. I do think we need to take seriously any concerns from that community that they believe could have been taken in order to try and rehabilitate that individual and anyone else in the future, too,” he said.

Faafoi also said he had heard concerns about missed opportunities to deradicalise Samsudeen.

“I’ve certainly heard some concern from some in the community about the opportunities that may or may not have been given to rehabilitate the individual concerned. I think that’s something that might not necessarily be an issue for the [counter-terrorism legislation] but also, I think, off the back of some of the feedback that we’ve had from the likes of the Royal Commission, we might want to look at wider for the system as well.”

A week after the September 3 attack, Stuff reported that the deradicalisation programme prepared for Samsudeen in 2018 was derailed when he was arrested again.

“Our deradicalisation programme, which was part of his original sentence, would have required him to go on a journey with us, and get some perspective on what he had done,” Auckland defence lawyer Aarif Rasheed told Stuff.

“They could have monitored him in the community while we were doing this. But before we could even begin, he was put behind bars again.

“It’s almost impossible to convince someone that they’re not under siege, when the state keeps putting them in prison. It allowed him to remain in his delusion that he was crusading against the state.”

This period of time won’t be covered by the independent review, which explicitly excludes “decisions and actions taken before Mr Samsudeen’s most recent period in custody”.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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