Man Accused in New Zealand Mosque Killings Pleads Not Guilty

Alleged Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant pleads not guilty

Suspected New Zealand mosque gunman pleads not guilty

Outside the courthouse, survivors and family members of 51 people killed in the March 15 gun attack at two Christchurch mosques talked about how important, but also how hard, it was to be at the High Court in Christchurch today as Brenton Tarrant appeared on 51 murder charges, 40 attempted murder charges and a charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, appeared by video link at the High Court in Christchurch this morning, where he's not guilty pleas were entered.

From his prison in Auckland, Tarrant appeared via video link in front of a full courtroom of survivors and the family members of victims.

Despite Tarrant's visual presence in the courtroom room, his microphone was muted.

The court heard that mental health assessments had found Tarrant was fit to stand trial.

He smiled as his lawyer Shane Tait entered the not guilty pleas but otherwise showed little emotion during the hearing.

Previously charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder, Tarrant faced an amended charge of murder Friday following the death of Turkish national Zekeriya Tuyan, 46, on May 2, two additional charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act under the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002, developed in the global fallout after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The judge scheduled a six-week trial beginning in May 4, 2020.

"It just shows he's an animal", Mustafa Boztas, who was wounded in the thigh, told AFP outside the court. "A fitness hearing is not required", Mander said in a minute released to the media after Friday's hearing.

At his last appearance, the court ordered he undertake mental health assessment to see if he is fit to stand trial.

"He was laughing there (in court) and he thinks he was so tough, but he was a coward when he faced me and he ran", he said.

Didar Hossain, whose uncle and friends were killed in the attack, was disappointed the justice system was taking so long to deal with the case.

"He is the loser and we are the victor", he said.

Locals lay flowers in tribute to those killed and injured at Deans Avenue near the Al Noor Mosque on March 16, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

On March 15, the gunman, armed with several high-powered weapons, opened fire on worshippers at two mosques during Friday prayers.

Addressing the nation in the wake of the attack, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it one of the country's "darkest days".

First Person - The latest chapter in the court proceedings of the accused mosque gunman played out in cold, misty weather in Christchurch this morning.

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