Christchurch mosque attack defendant Brenton Tarrant pleads not guilty

Brenton Tarrant is charged with murder at Christchurch District Court in March 2019.
PHOTO: Reuters

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - The man accused of shooting dead 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosque attacks pleaded not guilty Friday (June 14) to multiple murder and terrorism charges.

Appearing in Christchurch High Court via audio-visual link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland, Brenton Tarrant sat silently as lawyer Shane Tait said his client pleaded "not guilty to all charges".

The self-proclaimed white supremacist has been charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act over the March 15 atrocity in he South island city.

The 28-year-old Australian allegedly opened fire in the packed Al Noor mosque during Friday prayers and then travelled across town to continue the carnage in the suburban Linwood mosque.

The court heard that mental health assessments had found Tarrant was fit to stand trial for the worst massacre in modern New Zealand history.

About 80 survivors and relatives of those killed packed into the courthouse's public gallery for a glimpse of Tarrant.

Wearing a grey crewneck jersey, Tarrant smirked at times during the hearing.

Judge Cameron Mander set a trial date of May 4 next year, with Tait saying it was expected to last six weeks.

Shooters go on rampage at 2 Christchurch mosques, 40 killed

  • Attacks on two Christchurch mosques left at least 40 dead Friday, with one gunman - identified as an Australian extremist -- apparently livestreaming the assault that triggered the lockdown of the New Zealand city.
  • Emergency services personnel transport a stretcher carrying a person at a hospital, after reports that several shots had been fired, in central Christchurch, New Zealand March 15, 2019.
  • AOS (Armed Offenders Squad) member following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019.
  • A police car blocks the car of a suspect following shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand March 15, 2019, in this still image obtained from a social media video.
  • An image grab from TV New Zealand taken on March 15, 2019 shows New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressing the country on television following the mosque shooting in Christchurch.
  • Flowers are placed on the front steps of the Wellington Masjid mosque in Kilbirnie in Wellington on March 15, 2019
  • Police cordon off the area in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.

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