Suspected New Zealand mosque gunman pleads not guilty

The Australian man accused of killing 51 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand in March pleaded not guilty to multiple murder and terrorism charges on Friday.

In an attack broadcast live on Facebook, the lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on March 15, in New Zealand’s worst peacetime mass shooting.

Appearing in Christchurch High Court via an audiovisual link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland, Brenton Tarrant sat silently as lawyer Shane Tait said his client pleaded “not guilty to all charges”.

This is the first time a terrorism charge has been brought in New Zealand.

The self-proclaimed white supremacist has been charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and engaging in a “terrorist” act over the March 15 atrocity in the South Island city.

High Court Justice Cameron Mander said the trial would begin on May 4 next year. 

“The court endeavours to bring serious criminal cases to trial within a year of arrest. The scale and complexity of this case makes this challenging,” Mander said.

Tarrant has been remanded in custody until August 16 when a case review hearing is scheduled.

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