ZB

LynnMall terrorist attacker was assaulted twice in prison

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Mon, 23 May 2022, 10:50am
(Photo / Emma Russell)
(Photo / Emma Russell)

LynnMall terrorist attacker was assaulted twice in prison

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Mon, 23 May 2022, 10:50am

By Phil Pennington of RNZ 

Newly released documents reveal the LynnMall knife attacker was assaulted twice in prison by other inmates, and blamed for starting a third fight. 

A Muslim leader says the fact this is only coming to light now shows how one-sided the official narrative has been. 

Ahamed Samsudeen, who came here after a traumatic upbringing in Sri Lanka, was shot dead by police as a terrorist threat when he injured eight people in an Auckland supermarket last September, just weeks after his release from prison. 

The Corrections Department was quick to detail his alleged assaults and threats against guards, in a three-page statement released three days after his death. 

Corrections said nothing about the three assaults involving him while he was in custody on remand for about four years. 

The Federation of Islamic Associations said this was one-sided. 

"From our own investigations we were aware of assault on Samsudeen, however, we note that this was never revealed as part of the official narrative," Abdur Razzaq, chair of FIANZ's Royal Commission of Inquiry response, told RNZ. 

"This obviously raises issues of selective information release, cherry picking, to abet the official narrative and a lack of objective reporting by officials." 

Corrections' statement to the media last September is the subject of an investigation by the Ombudsman after a complaint by FIANZ. 

RNZ asked Corrections if it had been selective in what it told the public. 

It said it was only responding at the time to a host of media questions. 

"We were not asked by media about the assaults on Mr Samsudeen, but we were specifically asked by media about Mr Samsudeen's assault on Corrections Officers, which had been before the courts," it said. 

An inquiry into the events that followed Samsudeen's first arrest in mid-2017, by the prisons, police and security services inspectorates, is due to be released shortly. 

Samsudeen, 32 when he died, was granted refugee status in 2013, began surfing extremist websites, and was identified by the SIS as a terrorist threat in early 2017, during a period when the SIS was fixated on Islamic terrorism. 

He faced charges largely related to distributing extremist material. 

In June 2020, he was charged with assaulting prison guards during his second stint on remand, and moved to Auckland Prison maximum security for about a year, mostly in isolation. 

The prisons department on September 6, summarising Samsudeen's behaviour before his release in mid-2021, said he had been a "non-compliant" prisoner, "with multiple incidents of threats and abuse toward staff, including numerous incidents of throwing urine and faeces at staff, threatening the use of violence, and assaulting staff." 

A day earlier, his family had issued a statement that said Samsudeen himself was assaulted and this contributed to pressures on him. 

The "horrible" knife attack had followed a long decline. 

Ahamed Samsudeen. Photo / File

Ahamed Samsudeen. Photo / File 

"We saw his mental health got worse and worse during the last 10 years or so. He spent a lot of his time in prison and was always struggling with some court cases. 

"Of course, we feel very sad that he could not be saved. The prisons and the situation was hard on him and he did not have any support. He told us he was assaulted there," the family said. 

The newly released records show a first assault at Mt Eden prison in August 2017 and a second four months later. 

In the first, a guard reported "I could hear a prisoner shouting that he is being attacked and beaten by his cellmate", the prison records state. 

"Prisoner Mohammed was brushing his teeth in the morning when [the cellmate] said that he did not like the way he was brushing his teeth ... pushed Mohammed and also punched him. Mr Mohammed stated that he defended himself and punched back." 

Medical checks and misconduct charges followed for both. His cellmate was shifted out. Samsudeen declined police intervention. 

Prisoners in a dayroom intervened to stop the second assault. CCTV footage confirmed the other prisoner attacked Samsudeen. 

After a third fight, in Waikeria Prison in March 2018, Samsudeen called out to guards saying he had "broken my back" and needed hospital treatment. 

A guard had earlier found his cellmate pushing Samsudeen up against the wall. The cellmate "stated that Ahamed had attacked him with a breakfast bowl causing the lump to his forehead". Both men faced misconduct charges; the one against Samsudeen lapsed before it was heard. 

FIANZ asked Corrections last September to state if Samsudeen had ever been assaulted, to balance what it was telling the public about the threat he posed. 

The organisation condemned Samsudeen's knife attack as a "reprehensible and vile terror act", however, it wanted clarity about official interactions with him. 

Corrections told RNZ it was bound by obligations under the Privacy Act and Official Information Act, and made decisions on releasing personal information about Samsudeen in light of those, and "the requirement that we consider the public interest when we are asked for information of a personal nature". 

Corrections said that a multi-disciplinary team including police met weekly to plan the offender's release and management; it rejected other OIA requests for information, such as a copy of the release plan, on the grounds it would prejudice the ongoing inquiry.