The man suspected of killing 51 people in a mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, entered not guilty pleas to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one terrorism over the March 15 massacre.
The Australian appeared at the Christchurch High Court in relation to the via video-link from a small room at the maximum security prison in Auckland where he is being held.
The courtroom was filled with 80 survivors and family members, while about another 60 watched the proceedings on video in an overflow room.
Tarrant’s lawyer, Shane Tait, entered the not guilty pleas on the suspect’s behalf.
Wearing a grey sweatshirt, Tarrant smiled as his lawyer entered the pleas, but otherwise showed little emotion. His link had been muted, and he did not attempt to speak.
Judge Cameron Mander scheduled a six-week trial beginning next May. Tarrant will remain in custody until his next court appearance in August.
Mander said that two mental-health assessments of Tarrant had been completed, and there were no issues in relation to the accused’s ability to enter pleas and stand trial.
Such mental-health assessments are standard procedure in murder cases.
In the attacks, 42 worshippers were killed at the Al Noor mosque and seven were killed at the Linwood mosque during Friday prayers. Two more people died later at the Christchurch Hospital.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed never to say the accused man’s name. Last month she helped lead a global pledge named the “Christchurch Call,” aimed at boosting efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks.
Source: Evening Standard