Christchurch mosque shooting accused pleads not guilty before court

Brenton Tarrant has pleaded not guilty to 51 murder charges. Source AAP

Janna Ezat, wearing a T-shirt in memorial of her son who was killed at Al Noor mosque on March 15, reacts outside the Christchurch High Court after accused gunman Brenton Tarrant pleaded not guilty to all charges, New Zealand June 14, 2019.

Linwood Mosque imam Alabi Lateef Zirullah was at the High Court today for the appearance of the man accused of killing 51 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques in March.

Court security and police intervened after the confrontation.

After hearing the man supporting white supremacist speech, Mr Aziz confronted the hooded man.

It was important he was there today, he said, but it has left him "feeling nothing".

Tarrant, who called from the maximum-security Auckland Prison, was seen by a packed courtroom containing some 80 survivors of the attacks and family members of the victims.

Watching the proceedings in the High Court at Christchurch by video from prison, Tarrant smiled as his lawyer entered the pleas to all 92 charges.

"He's a coward. And behind the cell he's laughing", Aziz said.

"It was very hard for us even just to look at him".

Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian national, was committed to stand trial next year on 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed never to say the accused man's name.

"We are innocent people but we are strong. He will lose", told reporters.

Two further court rooms and some 200 seats were set aside for the public and police maintained a heavy presence through the building.

At his last court appearance in April, he was ordered to undergo mental health assessments to determine whether he was fit to stand trial.

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

But Christchurch's Muslim community has welcomed the decision by prosecutors to treat the shootings as an act of terrorism.

But Temal Atacocugu, who was shot nine times in the 15 March attacks, fronted media with a message of strength and solidarity.

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

Amid concerns his trial could be used to espoused far-right extremist views, New Zealand's major media organisations have agreed to self-imposed restrictions on reporting.

The suspect 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.



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