Christchurch shooter pleads not guilty to 51 charges of murder
Christchurch mosque terror attacker Brenton Tarrant has denied being the attacker and has entered a not guilty plea during a short appearance at the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, this morning.
As he announced his plea via his lawyer, gasps were heard in the courtroom according to news.com.au.
Tarrant has pled not guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one terrorism offence over the Christchurch shootings. This is a total of 92 charges in total.
The terror charge laid against him last month will be the first prosecution of its kind in New Zealand and some legal experts say that it could lead to a complex trial, according to Yahoo! News.
Tarrant wore a grey sweatshirt and strained to hear discussions via the audio-visual link from Paremoremo Prison in Auckland. That prison is currently New Zealand’s only maximum-security prison.
Prison staff have confirmed that Tarrant has no access to television, radio, newspapers or visitors.
The courtroom was filled with survivors and family members of the 51 killed during the March 15 attack at two Christchurch mosques.
Two further courts and 200 seats were set aside for the public, who watched the court proceedings via audio-visual link as the main courtroom was full. Police maintained a heavy presence throughout the building.
All of the victims kept their eyes glued to the gunman throughout the hearing.
Tarrant’s case will return to court on August 16.
Amid concerns his trial can be used to further incite hatred and expose far-right extremist views, New Zealand’s major media organisations have agreed to self-imposed restrictions on reporting.
Justice Cameron Mander has also declined all media requests to film or photograph proceedings in court, in the interest of preserving the integrity of the trial process and ensure a fair trial for Tarrant.