CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: Brenton Tarrant, an Australian self-proclaimed white supremacist, who killed 51 people and wounded several others in two Christchurch mosques, pleaded not guilty on Friday to all 92 charges.
Victims’ families were indignant after the man accused of attacking people at two Christchurch mosques pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism and 51 murders. Silent during the hearing, his smirks angered survivors.
Tarrant on Friday entered not-guilty pleas to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one terrorism charge at the Christchurch High Court in relation to the March 15 massacre that was broadcast live on Facebook.
Equipped with semi-automatic weapons, a lone gunman targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on March 15. It was New Zealand’s worst mass shooting and led to substantial changes in the country’s gun laws.
Tarrant, 29, appeared by video link from Paremoremo Prison in Auckland while his lawyer entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.
About 80 members of Christchurch’s Muslim community and dozens of media representatives attended the hearing in a packed courtroom.
High Court Justice Cameron Mander said the trial would begin on May 4. The prosecution expected the trial would take around six weeks, although Mander said defence lawyers believed it could take considerably longer.
Fit to stand trial
Mental health assessments found Tarrant fit to stand trial.
“No issue arises regarding the defendant’s fitness to plead, to instruct counsel, and to stand his trial. A fitness hearing is not required,” Judge Cameron Mander said in a statement issued shortly after the hearing.
Donned in a grey sweatshirt, Tarrant, smirked as his lawyer entered the pleas.
Survivors angry over suspect’s smirks
On March 15, 42 people were killed at the Al Noor mosque and seven were killed at the Linwood mosque during Friday prayers. Two more died later at the Christchurch Hospital.
The victims’ families expressed anger over the defendant’s smirks during the hearing.
“It just shows he’s an animal,” Mustafa Boztas, who was wounded in the thigh, told media persons. “I feel sad that someone can be so inhuman and take the lives of innocent people.”