Alleged shooter in New Zealand mosque attack pleads not guilty

Suspected white supremacist Brenton Tarrant already faces 50 counts of murder for the attack and will be charged under a terrorist act

Suspected white supremacist Brenton Tarrant already faces 50 counts of murder for the attack and will be charged under a terrorist act

Tarrant appeared by video link from Auckland's Paremoremo Prison, New Zealand's only maximum-security prison, where he is being held in isolation.

He appeared to smile as one of his lawyers entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf.

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

The Australian citizen was arrested on 15 March for his alleged involvement in the shootings at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, both located in Christchurch.

Fifty-one people died after the dual attacks on the Christchurch mosques. One man has been charged with murder.

On Friday, the 28-year-old terror accused pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder as well as engaging in a Terrorist Act.

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.

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At the last hearing on April 5, the court had ordered Tarrant to undergo mental assessment first to determine whether he was fit to stand trial. "A fitness hearing is not required", Judge Cameron Mander said in a statement issued shortly after the hearing. Such mental-health assessments are standard procedure in murder cases.

New Zealand's High Court Justice Camero Mander said his trial would start on May 4 next year.

Tarrant has been remanded in custody until August 15, when the next case review hearing is scheduled.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, at his first court appearance in the Christchurch District Court in March.

It is the first time someone in New Zealand has been charged under the country's terrorism suppression act, which was introduced after the September 11 attacks.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier said the survival of most of those victims admitted to hospital it was "a testament to the extraordinary work put in by the medical staff at Christchurch, Burwood and Starship Hospitals in the aftermath of the shooting to save lives".

The attack killed 51 worshipers and wounded dozens and was was broadcast live on Facebook.

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