The man accused of shooting dead 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosque attacks in March smiled yesterday as his lawyers entered not guilty pleas to multiple murder and terrorism charges.
Brenton Tarrant’s barrister told Christchurch High Court his client was pleading not guilty to all charges, prompting anger from survivors and relatives of those killed in the March 15 attacks.
The self-proclaimed white supremacist appeared in court via audio-visual link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland for the brief hearing.
Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian national, was committed to stand trial next year on 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act.
His smiling demeanour enraged survivors still reeling from the worst massacre in modern New Zealand history, who had packed the courthouse’s public gallery for a glimpse of the accused.
Tarrant allegedly opened fire in the packed Al Noor mosque during Friday prayers, then travelled across town to continue the carnage in the suburban Linwood mosque, while livestreaming his actions on social media.
The court heard that mental health assessments had found Tarrant was fit to stand trial.
The judge set a trial date of May 4, 2020, with proceedings expected to last at least six weeks, although some lawyers warned the case -- sure to be one of the biggest-ever in New Zealand -- could go twice as long.