Christchurch accused to face 50 murder charges

The man accused of attacking two mosques in Christchurch last month will face 50 murder charges
when he appears in court on Friday, New Zealand police said.

Australian Brenton Tarrant was previously charged with one murder as a
holding measure, but police said Thursday that all the deaths and injuries in
the March 15 attacks will be reflected in upgraded charges during his next
appearance.

“The man arrested in relation to the Christchurch terror attacks will face
50 murder and 39 attempted murder charges when he appears in the High Court
in Christchurch on Friday,” they said in a brief statement.

Tarrant, 28, will appear via video link in the Christchurch court from a
maximum-security prison in Auckland.

A note from the court this week said the appearance was likely to be brief
and would “ascertain the defendant’s position regarding legal representation”
and other procedural matters.

Tarrant sacked a court-appointed lawyer after his first court appearance on
March 16, raising fears he wanted to represent himself and attempt to use any
trial as a propaganda platform.

The court said Tarrant would not be required to enter a plea during
Friday’s hearing.

The court has now barred media from filming or photographing the accused.

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

They may relate to whether the court deems the attack a terrorist act,
something Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly labelled the atrocity.

However, New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act, introduced after the 9/11
attacks, is little used and could complicate the prosecution.

Criminal charges, such as murder and attempted murder are easier to pursue,
although prosecutors may want the accused tried as a terrorist to make the
point that right-wing extremism is just as dangerous as its Islamic
counterpart.