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Christchurch Shooter Returns To Court Today

The Australian accused of carrying out the Christchurch mosque attacks will return to court where he faces 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder.

The Australian man arrested over a terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand will face 50 charges of murder and dozens more of attempted murder as he returns to court.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, will appear on Friday in the High Court at Christchurch three weeks on from the shootings that killed 50 people.

Making his second court appearance since his arrest on the day of the attack, the former NSW resident will face 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder, police have confirmed.

Brenton Tarrant in court.

They said other charges were still being considered, but declined to comment further.

Tarrant is reportedly being held in New Zealand's only maximum security prison, in Auckland, and will appear in court via video, a common practice in New Zealand's legal system.

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He will not yet be required to enter pleas.

What is expected to be a brief and largely procedural hearing will also be held under tight media rules, including a ban on photography, with the presiding judge citing "the need to preserve the integrity of the trial process and ensure a fair trial" among other considerations.

Much of the hearing is likely to take place behind closed doors.

Christchurch Service
Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten attend a memorial for the Christchurch shooting victims. Image: Twitter/ Scott Morrison

But as Tarrant's first appearance was closed to the general public, Friday may be the first chance the victims' families have to see him in court.

There were earlier suggestions Tarrant intended to represent himself at trial but two Auckland-based lawyers have confirmed to media they have been appointed to act on his behalf.

In the meantime, Tarrant has had no access to television, radio, newspapers or visitors, prison authorities say.

Despite labelling the shooting an act of terrorism, authorities have not laid charges under New Zealand's anti-terror laws and have not said whether they intend to.

The country's terrorism legislation has in the past proven unwieldy and complex, and some legal experts have said terror charges may complicate a prosecution for no material difference in outcome if the accused is found guilty.