Christchurch attack: Brenton Tarrant pleads not guilty to all charges

Brenton TarrantImage copyright TVNZ
Image caption Brenton Tarrant in his first court appearance in April

The main suspect in the Christchurch attacks in March, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Brenton Tarrant is charged with the murder of 51 people, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism charge in New Zealand’s deadliest peace time mass shooting.

Appearing via video link from prison, the 29-year-old sat in silence as his lawyer read out his plea.

The 15 March attack saw a gunman opened fire on Muslims during Friday prayers.

A number of the survivors of the attack and relatives of the victims were in court for the hearing, the BBC’s Sydney correspondent Hywel Griffith reported.

As lawyer Shane Tait read out his client’s not guilty pleas, a number of them gasped and became tearful.

High Court Justice Cameron Mander said the trial had been set for 4 May next year, and that Tarrant would be remanded in custody until a case review hearing on 16 August.

Last week, a restriction on publishing photos of the suspect’s face was lifted.

‘New Zealand’s darkest day’

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.

He allegedly drove first to the Al Noor mosque, parked nearby and began firing into the mosque as he walked in through the front entrance.

He allegedly fired on men, women and children inside for about five minutes. The attack was live-streamed from a head-mounted camera.

Victims of the Christchurch shootings

Fifty-one people lost their lives in the shootings at two mosques in the city. Here are some of their stories.

The suspect is then said to have driven about 5km (three miles) to the Linwood mosque where the second shooting occurred.

The gunman, armed with semi-automatic rifles including an AR-15, is believed to have modified his weapons with high-capacity magazines – the part of the gun which stores ammunition – so they could hold more bullets.

He is currently being kept in isolation at the Auckland Prison in Paremoremo, considered New Zealand’s toughest prison.

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