The alleged perpetrator of back-to-back mosque massacres in New Zealand appeared via video from prison yesterday to face a full sweep of charges linked to the attacks that claimed 50 lives and wounded dozens of people.
The suspect, Brenton Tarrant (28), was charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder.
Officials have indicated that further charges are possible from the twin attacks on March 15 in Christchurch, New Zealand’s third-largest city.
Tarrant appeared via video link from Auckland’s Paremoremo Prison, New Zealand’s only maximum-security prison, where he is being held in isolation. He was not asked to enter a plea and will undergo a psychiatric assessment before he appears again on June 14.
Tarrant at times looked disinterested during the hearing but was alert while the assessment of his mental health was discussed. More than 40 journalists packed a small chamber of the Christchurch High Court for the brief procedural hearing, while approximately 50 survivors of the massacre, some injured, and their families were given priority seating in the public gallery.
Tarrant’s attorney Shane Tait, who requested the psychiatric assessment, said it could take up to three months due to issues accessing his client.
The presiding judge, Justice Cameron Mander, ordered that no filming or recording take place in the court and that existing images be pixilated.
The court hearing comes amid escalating probes in Europe over links between Tarrant and far-right groups.
On Thursday, a second donation by Tarrant to the anti-immigrant Identitarian Movement was confirmed.
Romain Espino, a spokesman for the French branch of the group, confirmed it received a donation of about €1,000 from Tarrant in September 2017.
Early last year, Tarrant donated $1,700 (€1,500) to the head of the Austrian Identitarian Movement, which promotes fears that European culture could be overrun by Muslim migrants.
If convicted, Tarrant faces the prospect of life imprisonment without parole – and confirmation that he is among the deadliest white-nationalist-inspired mass murderers in recent years.
It is understood he intends to represent himself at the upcoming trial.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described the events as “our darkest of days”.
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