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Letter From Jailed New Zealand Shooter Was Posted Online

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Letter From Jailed New Zealand Shooter Was Posted Online

The white supremacist charged in the New Zealand mosque attacks that killed 51 people was permitted to send letters to supporters from jail, authorities in the country said, including one that was posted to a forum that has been a home for racist and violent views.

Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian accused of shooting attacks at two Christchurch mosques, sent a number of letters from his cell in the country’s only maximum-security jail, New Zealand Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said Thursday, in violation of rules meant to limit his ability to inspire fresh violence.

One, addressed to an admirer in Russia, was shared on an online forum called 4chan that has long been a home for people who want to discuss racist or violent views.

“There is a process, and in this case the process failed,” Mr. Davis told New Zealand radio. “I’ve asked the question: Are our laws as they stand actually fit for purpose?”

Following the March 15 massacre, the deadliest terrorist attack in New Zealand history, Prime Minister

Jacinda Ardern

pledged to counter the spread of terrorist content online. The shooter detailed his growing radicalization on social media, and parts of the attacks were live-streamed on sites including Facebook.

In May, Ms. Ardern co-hosted a conference with French President

Emmanuel Macron

and executives from tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google, owner of YouTube, to try to curtail the spread of terrorist material on the internet.

Those calls have gathered steam since mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this month left 32 people dead. The El Paso shooter posted a manifesto before his rampage on 8chan, another fringe site, referencing the Christchurch gunman.

A House committee on Wednesday subpoenaed the owner of 8chan to appear for a deposition, saying, “At least three acts of deadly white-supremacist extremist violence have been linked to 8chan in the last six months.”

Mr. Tarrant faces 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one terrorism-related charge in a trial set to begin in May. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

His lawyers appeared in a Christchurch court on Thursday to discuss a trial matter. He waived his right to appear. The judge suppressed the content of the hearing to avoid prejudicing potential jurors.

According to officials, Mr. Tarrant has sent seven letters from his cell: two to his mother and five to others.  Authorities confiscated two more over worries about the content. He has now been blocked from sending or receiving mail.

In the six-page handwritten letter dated July 4 that was shared on 4chan, the gunman recalled a 2015 trip to Russia and thanked the sender for two postage stamps, which he said added color to an otherwise gray cell.

He said he couldn’t “go into any great detail about regrets or feelings” without risking confiscation of the letter but ended with a warning that a “great conflict” was coming, which Mr. Davis, the corrections minister, said could be construed as a “call to arms.”

Ms. Ardern said Thursday that the letter shouldn’t have passed by guards.

“I think every New Zealander would have an expectation that this individual should not be able to share his hateful message from behind bars,” she told reporters. “This is an offender who has a very specific goal in mind, in terms of sharing his propaganda, so we should have been prepared for that.”

Write to Rob Taylor at rob.taylor@wsj.com

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