Mourners pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Mourners pay their respects at a makeshift memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Saturday, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

New Zealand mosque shooting suspect pleads not guilty

The man accused of killing 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, pleaded not guilty on Thursday. Brenton Tarrant faces 92 charges, including 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and a terrorism count.

If he does not change his plea, his trial is set to begin in May 2020. His next hearing will be Aug. 15.

Tarrant wrote a lengthy manifesto ahead of the shooting where he promised to plead not guilty, but also acknowledged it was an act of terrorism.\

The courtroom was filled with 80 survivors and family members, while about another 60 watched the proceedings on video in an overflow room.

Four cultural advisers and other staff were assigned to help the victims and family members understand what was going on in court and the next steps in the case.

A man who addressed the survivors said they had been praying during the holy month of Ramadan and that the Muslim community would help and support each other during the coming weeks and months.

Wearing a gray sweat shirt, Tarrant was shown being brought into the room by three prison officers. His link had been muted, and he didn’t attempt to speak. When Judge Cameron Mander asked if he could hear and see what was going on in the courtroom, Tarrant nodded.

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.

Tarrant is accused of opening fire at two mosques during Friday prayers on March 15, ultimately killing 51 people, the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand since 1990. The shooting directly resulted in changes to New Zealand’s gun laws.

The shooter livestreamed much of the attack on Facebook.

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.

Author: CBS News
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