Accused Christchurch gunman pleads not guilty to all charges
Man (29) accused of killing 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques in March
Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the dock during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand on March 16th. Photograph: Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald/Pool via ReuterS/File
The Australian man accused of killing 51 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand in March pleaded not guilty to all charges in a court on Friday.
In an attack broadcast live on Facebook, the lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on March 15th, in New Zealand’s worst peace time mass shooting.
Brenton Tarrant (29) appeared by video link and entered his plea through his lawyers.
High Court Justice Cameron Mander said the trial will begin on May 4th next year.
Judge Mander said that courts usually endeavoured to bring cases to trial within a year of the event, but that “the scale and complexity of this case makes this challenging”.
Tarrant has been remanded in custody until August 16th when a case review hearing is scheduled.
Tarrant faces total of 92 charges after New Zealand filed two additional attempted murder charges, one murder charge and one terrorism charge. This is the first time a terrorism charge has been brought in New Zealand.
Tarrant stood facing the camera from a high security facility in Auckland, mostly with an impassive expression but smirking at times including as his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Around 80 members of Christchurch’s Muslim community sat in the back of the court, solemn and quiet throughout the appearance. There were some quiet gasps when the not guilty plea was entered by the Tarrant’s lawyer.
At the last hearing on April 5th, the court had ordered Tarrant to undergo mental assessment first to determine whether he was fit to stand trial.
The judge said on Friday that there were no issues arising from mental health assessments and defendant is fit to stand trial. – Reuters