Christchurch Mosque Shooting Suspect Pleads Guilty27 Mar 2020
Christchurch shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant has suddenly pleaded guilty for the attacks on two mosques in New Zealand last year, which killed 51 people and injured 49 others. His sentence will be taking place at a later date.
The attack, which targeted Muslim worshippers attending Friday prayer on 15th March 2019, was broadcast online by the gunman, alongside a manifesto expressing his white supremacist views which motivated the killing spree.
Tarrant, who had previously denied the charges and was set to appear in court in June, requested a hearing in Christchurch high court on Thursday morning, where he confessed to the charges in front of 17 people. Due to the Corona outbreak and the lockdown restrictions, Tarrant and his lawyers attended via video link.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said, “the guilty pleas to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act were taken via an AVL (audiovisual) link from Auckland Prison.”
At the court hearing, only two imams from the attacked mosques, Al Noor and Linwood Avenue, who were both present at the shootings, were allowed to attend as representatives of the victims. Information was suppressed to ensure as many victims as possible were aware of the plea before it was announced publicly.
Judge Justice Mander declared: “there is no intention to sentence the defendant before the court returns to its normal operations, and at a time when the victims and their families can attend court in person.” Police have said this will not be possible “for some time” given the nationwide lockdown to control the Covid-19 pandemic.
New Zealand’s Prime minister Jacinda Arden said “the guilty plea today will provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered by what happened on March 15.”
The shootings at the two mosques in Christchurch last year has been described as the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history, and the country’s largest recorded criminal prosecution.