An Australian man pleaded not guilty on Friday to 92 charges stemming from a massacre in two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch three months ago and will stand trial in May next year.
A lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons attacked Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island on March 15, killing 51 people in the country’s worst peace-time mass shooting.
The attacker broadcast the shooting live on Facebook.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern introduced tough new firearm laws banning semi-automatic weapons after the attack.
Brenton Tarrant, 29, a suspected white supremacist, appeared by video link from a maximum security facility in Auckland while his lawyer entered not guilty pleas on his behalf. The accusations against him include one terrorism charge.
About 80 members of Christchurch’s Muslim community and dozens of media representatives attended the hearing in a packed court room, with many seated in another room watching by video.
High Court Justice Cameron Mander said the trial would begin on May 4. The prosecution expected the trial would take around six weeks, although Mander said defence lawyers believed it could take considerably longer. Courts try to bring cases to trial within a year but Mander said “the scale and complexity of this case makes this challenging”.