New Zealand Mosque Killing Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — The Australian man accused of killing 51 individuals and wounding dozens extra as they worshiped at two mosques in New Zealand in March pleaded not responsible to scores of counts — together with homicide and a terrorism cost — in a quick court docket listening to on Friday.

Brenton Tarrant’s denial of guilt means survivors of the March 15 assaults, their households, and the households of those that had been killed should put together for a prolonged and emotional trial, to start out on May four, 2020, that may pose many logistical and safety challenges for officers. It may even power New Zealand’s court docket system to contemplate the best way to stop Mr. Tarrant from utilizing the trial as a platform for his self-proclaimed white supremacist views.

If discovered responsible at trial, Mr. Tarrant, 28, faces the prospect of life in jail with out parole, a sentence that has by no means been handed down in New Zealand however which might be awarded at a choose’s discretion. The longest earlier homicide sentence within the nation was 30 years with out parole for a person who killed three individuals.

Fifty individuals had been shot lifeless by a gunman wielding semiautomatic weapons within the assault on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques within the South Island metropolis of Christchurch. Another man died of his accidents weeks later in a hospital.

Mr. Tarrant is charged with the tried homicide of 40 different worshipers. Prosecutors have additionally filed one cost below terrorism legal guidelines, that are hardly ever invoked in New Zealand.

At Friday’s court docket look, Mr. Tarrant appeared through an audiovisual hyperlink from New Zealand’s solely most safety jail in Auckland, the nation’s largest metropolis.

Wearing a grey jail sweater, Mr. Tarrant alternately stared immediately into the digital camera and appeared across the room he was in. He smiled barely when the terrorism cost was formally filed, and when one among his legal professionals, Shane Tait, entered the not responsible pleas.

He didn’t converse in the course of the listening to.

The information that Mr. Tarrant would combat the fees was met with an audible consumption of breath from the packed public gallery, the place all 80 seats had been reserved for survivors and their households and the households of these killed. An extra 60 relations had been seated in a second courtroom, the place Mr. Tarrant’s look was streamed to them by video.

Those within the public gallery had been quiet however emotional; at the least one man arrived in a wheelchair and one other survivor on crutches.

Psychiatric studies, which had been ordered at his final court docket look, discovered that Mr. Tarrant was mentally match to enter a plea, mentioned Justice Cameron Mander, who presided over the listening to earlier than the High Court in Christchurch.

After the listening to, some survivors and members of the victims’ households expressed their dismay at watching Mr. Tarrant smile in court docket.

The courthouse in Christchurch the place Mr. Tarrant entered a not responsible plea through video hyperlink on Friday.CreditMatthew Abbott for The New York Times

“It was very arduous,” mentioned Abdul Aziz, who gave chase to the gunman in the course of the assault on the on the Linwood Mosque and threw one of many man’s weapons by way of the window of his automobile.

Mr. Aziz added that it was necessary for him to see the accused man’s face.

Despite the defendant’s earlier claims that he would symbolize himself, two legal professionals, Mr. Tait and Jonathan Hudson, appeared in court docket on his behalf on Friday for the second time. They haven’t defined the circumstances by which they got here to symbolize the accused.

Chris Gallavin, a regulation professor at Massey University in Palmerston North, mentioned it was troublesome to think about what protection the accused’s legal professionals would mount, on condition that Mr. Tarrant is believed to have posted a self-described manifesto on-line earlier than the assault, and to have streamed a part of the bloodbath dwell on Facebook.

The trial, which is anticipated to final at the least six weeks, can also be anticipated to problem members of the court docket employees whose job it is going to be to accommodate dozens of households within the courtroom’s 80 public seats, and the members of the information media who will arrive from all around the world.

“The logistics of this case shall be a nightmare” for officers, mentioned Dr. Gallavin, who added that heightened safety could be required on the court docket at some point of the trial. “All of that’s going to be extremely disruptive for the movement of an already overworked court docket,” he mentioned.

At Friday’s listening to, reporters utilized for the 22 seats put aside for them within the courtroom — with 12 sitting within the jury field — whereas others needed to watch the proceedings through a dwell feed in one other room. New Zealand’s largest media retailers have agreed to keep away from broadcasting white supremacist views in the course of the trial.

Much of Friday’s listening to included dialogue among the many choose, prosecutors and Mr. Tarrant’s legal professionals, which can’t be reported for authorized causes.

However, Justice Mander did raise an earlier ruling that suppressed the names of the 40 tried homicide victims.

Members of the information media weren’t allowed to report or movie at Friday’s listening to. Justice Mander lifted an earlier ruling he had issued requiring that the suspect’s face be pixelated in images.

Mr. Tarrant will subsequent seem in court docket in August for a procedural listening to.

Trials in New Zealand often occur a yr from the date of the defendant’s arrest, however the choose defined that the complexity of this case meant that either side would wish extra time to organize.

Didar Hossein, whose uncle was killed within the assault, mentioned he didn’t perceive why the households should wait so lengthy for a trial.

“We don’t need that,” he mentioned. “We need it as quickly as they’ll do it for us.”

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