New Zealand mosque shooter changes plea to guilty | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 27, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, March 27, 2020

New Zealand mosque shooter changes plea to guilty

PM, Muslim community express relief at surprise decision

An Australian far-right extremist charged with murdering 51 Muslim worshippers in last year's mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques unexpectedly flipped his plea to guilty yesterday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Muslim community expressed relief at the surprise decision, which removes the need for a lengthy trial that authorities feared would be used to spout neo-Nazi propaganda.

Self-avowed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 29, had previously denied 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of terrorism but reversed his plea in a hurriedly arranged court hearing.

"Yes, guilty," Tarrant told Christchurch High Court via videolink from Auckland Prison as the charges were read out to him.

Tarrant, wearing a grey top, stared intently at the camera while making his confession.

Neither the former gym instructor from the Australian country town of Grafton nor his lawyers offered any explanation for the change, which makes him New Zealand's first-ever convicted terrorist.

The South Pacific nation does not have the death penalty but Tarrant faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars.

The terror and murder charges all carry life sentences, setting a minimum non-parole period of 17 years but giving the judge power to imprison without the possibility of release.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the admission of guilt would provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered in the attack.

"These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial," she said.

Asked how she reacted upon hearing the news, Ardern replied: "I let out a huge sigh of relief".

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