Auckland—Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the gunman in the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch, has been formally charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder, according to a statement from the New Zealand Police on Thursday, April 4.
Mr Tarrant, age 28, will appear before the High Court via an audio-visual link on Friday, April 5.
The statement from the police reads “Christchurch terror attacks — further charges laid
Police can now confirm the man arrested in relation to the Christchurch terror attacks will face 50 Murder and 39 Attempted Murder charges when he appears in the High Court in Christchurch on Friday 5 April.
Other charges are still under consideration.
As the case is before the court, the police are not in a position to comment further.”
On March 16, the day after the shootings, he was charged with a single count of murder. He was arrested on the day of the shootings itself.
Mr Tarrant entered the two mosques armed with high-powered weapons and streamed the attacks via Facebook live. He also posted a manifesto of his beliefs before the shootings.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately condemned the shootings as an act of terrorism, and said today is “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
It is unknown, however, whether Mr Tarrant will be the first person to be charged under the anti-terror laws of New Zealand. Analysts have said that the country’s legislation regarding terrorism have proved to be complex, making charges of terrorism against the gunman a possible source of additional complications for the prosecutor in his case, with little possible difference in the outcome should he be convicted.
At the moment, he is detained in Auckland, in the one maximum security prison the country has. He has not been given access to news on television, radio or print media, and neither he is allowed to have visitors.
Mr Tarrant worked as a personal gym trainer upon graduation and has also lived in different parts of Europe and Asia.
Amongst his victims, sixteen are still in hospital nearly three weeks after the shootings. Eleven are in stable condition, with one is still in critical condition.
For tomorrow’s court appearance, he is not yet required to enter a plea. Its main purpose is to establish Mr Tarrant’s legal representation as well as any administrative matters.
Mr Tarrant had already said that he wishes no other legal representation.
The media will be allowed to attend the hearing, but the judge has denied access to film, photograph and recordings at the hearing.
The police statement regarding the charges filed against the gunman arrived just as Parliament was hearing oral submissions on the gun law reform bill, which is meant to ban military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs) and assault rifles and related components, as well as to arrange a buyback scheme for guns that are illegal.
The Prime Minister promised that the law would be amended in the wake of the mosque shootings.
In Parliament, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations NZ, Mustafa Farouk, said, “I’m here to represent some of those people who are not able to here because they are dead.”
Rehanna Ali, also a member of the federation, said,“We want to reclaim the country we had before March 15 … the outpouring of compassion, of shared grief … has gone a great way towards reclaiming who we are, and this legislation will continue on that path.”
The government is aiming to pass gun reform legislation by April 11.-TISG
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