NZ mosque massacre accused to face 50 murder charges

Brenton Tarrant has been charged in relation to the Christchurch mosque massacre. Source AAPMore

Australian national Brenton Tarrant appeared via video link at the High Court in Christchurch, charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder.

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand-A New Zealand judge on Friday, April 5, ordered that the man accused of killing 50 people at two Christchurch mosques undergo two mental health assessments to determine if he's fit to stand trial.

New Zealand police on Thursday filed 49 counts of murder against Tarrant, bringing the total number of murder charges to 50.

Shortly after the tragedy, on 21 March, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern introduced a ban on military-style semi-automatic firearms and assault rifles.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared via a video link from Auckland Prison in for what was a quiet, ordered hearing.

Tarrant had sacked a court-appointed lawyer after the initial court appearance, raising fears he wanted to represent himself and attempt to use any trial as a right-wing propaganda platform.

Fifty people were killed at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch central on March 15.

Twelve media applications to film or record the appearance were declined by Mander.

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Tarrant's second court appearance comes three weeks after the attack, as the New Zealand government rushed to make changes to gun laws and investigate how he was able to carry out the attacks.

Mr Tarrant made no comment during the short hearing.

Police said further charges were being considered against Tarrant - a self-avowed white supremacist - but did not specify what they were.

Justice Cameron Mander in a note said the hearing would be largely about Tarrant's legal representation.

Retired law professor Bill Hodge said the idea behind obscuring his image was that the prosecution might need a witness to be sure he saw the gunman at the mosque rather than recognizing him from media stories.

The public gallery was packed to standing capacity with members of the Muslim community and journalists from New Zealand and around the world. The act of terrorism left the entire Muslim community shaken, with the global community and locals showing their solidarity with the affected.

It said he had no access to television, radio or newspapers and no visitors.

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