Accused Christchurch shooter SMILES as he pleads not guilty to killing 51 people in mosque massacre – as survivors gasp and cry at the plea
- An Australian man accused of shooting dead 51 people has pleaded not guilty
- Brenton Tarrant, 28, denied 92 terrorism, murder and attempted murder charges
- He smiled as his lawyer entered not-guilty pleas to all charges
The Australian man accused of shooting dead 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques has smiled as he pleaded not guilty to murder and terror charges.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, smiled as his lawyer entered pleas for 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one terrorism offence in Christchurch High Court on Friday.
Survivors gasped and murmured when Tarrant pleaded guilty to 92 charges via video from prison.
Tarrant faces a new terrorist charge under a new act – the first time such a charge has been brought in New Zealand.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, pleaded guilty to 92 charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder. He is pictured when he appeared in court on March 16 – one day after the alleged shooting
A lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on March 15.
The attack killed 51 worshipers and wounded dozens and was was broadcast live on Facebook.
Dozens of relatives of victims and survivors packed the courtroom, some visibly nervous during the hearing, other in tears as the pleas were entered.
Two further courts and some 200 seats were set aside for the public, police maintaining a heavy presence through the building, .
The court on Friday also found Tarrant was mentally fit to stand trial after earlier requesting routine reports.
The terror charge against him, laid last month, will be the first prosecution of its kind in New Zealand and some legal experts say it could potentially lead to a complex trial.
But Christchurch’s Muslim community has welcomed the decision by prosecutors to treat the shootings as an act of terrorism.
Tarrant is being held in New Zealand’s only maximum security jail, in Auckland, and prison staff say he has no access to television, radio, newspapers or visitors.
Amid concerns his trial could be used to espoused far-right extremist views, New Zealand’s major media organisations have agreed to self-imposed restrictions on reporting.
Tarrant’s case will return to court on August 16.
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