Alleged Christchurch Shooter Smiles As He Pleads Not Guilty
Brenton Tarrant, the 29-year-old Australian man arrested over the Christchurch mosque attacks has pled not guilty to all 92 of the charges he faces.
Tarrant entered his not guilty plea to the charges through his counsel, during a court appearance at Christchurch's High Court on Friday.
From his prison in Auckland, Tarrant appeared via video link in front of a full courtroom of survivors and the family members of victims.
Tarrant smiled wryly as his plea was entered, while gasps were heard around the courtroom from those watching.
He is facing 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of engaging in a terrorist act.
The terror charge against Tarrant, laid last month, is the first in New Zealand and legal experts say it could potentially lead to a complex trial.
At his last appearance, the court ordered he undertake mental health assessment to see if he is fit to stand trial.
The court received two health assessor's reports today, and Justice Cameron Mander confirmed there was "no issue" regarding Tarrant's fitness to enter a plea.
"No issue arises regarding the defendant’s fitness to plead, to instruct counsel, and to stand his trial," Mander said.
"A fitness hearing is not required."
The trial against the accused gunman will begin May 4, next year.
The judge admitted that while the courts usually try to have cases heard with 12 months of an arrest made, the "complexities" of this case mean that is not possible.
The nephew of one of the shooting victims, Didar Hossain, said Tarrant's not guilty plea made the suffering of the last few months "worse".
"I was really upset for everyone. Not just for me, but for all who are victims," he told reporters outside the court.
"Everyone is really upset when you see is face, his smiling face."
Tempers flared outside the court, as a passerby accused victims of being too angry at the not guilty pleas.
The victim's supporters were lead away by security.