NZ Mosque Suspect Smirks, Doesn't Speak, During Hearing

Brenton Tarrant's lawyer enters not guilty pleas
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 14, 2019 3:00 AM CDT
NZ Mosque Suspect Smirks, Pleads Not Guilty
Janna Ezat, mother of mosque shooting victim Hussein Al-Umari, shows a shirt bearing his photo outside the Christchurch District Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, June 14, 2019.   (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

The man accused of the New Zealand mosque attacks smirked as his lawyer entered not guilty pleas to terrorism, murder, and attempted murder charges Friday before a judge who set his trial for next May. The courtroom was filled with 80 survivors and family members of the 51 who were slain, while about another 60 watched the hearing on video in an overflow room at the Christchurch High Court. Four cultural advisers and other staff were assigned to help the victims and family members understand the proceedings and the next steps in the case. Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian accused of the attacks, appeared at the hearing via video link from a small room at the maximum security prison in Auckland where he's being held. The link was muted and he didn't attempt to speak.

Other than smirking a couple of times, Tarrant showed little emotion during the hearing, the AP reports. When Judge Cameron Mander asked if he could hear and see what was going on in the courtroom, Tarrant nodded. At times he looked around the room and stretched his neck. The judge did not allow cameras or video in the courtroom. Tarrant has been charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one terrorism charge in relation to the March 15 shootings. Mander said the findings of two mental-health assessments showed Tarrant had no issues related to his ability to enter pleas and stand trial. The judge scheduled a six-week trial to begin May 4. Tarrant will remain in custody ahead of his next hearing in mid-August. (The 51st victim died seven weeks after the massacre.)

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