Christchurch mosque attacker ordered to undergo mental health tests
Christchurch - The Australian man accused of killing 50 people and wounding dozens of others in two Christchurch mosques last month, was Friday ordered to undergo mental health tests to determine if he is fit to stand trial.
Brenton Tarrant showed no emotion as he appeared via video-link from Auckland Prison at a hearing at the High Court in Christchurch.
Dressed in a plain grey prison jersey and wearing handcuffs, Tarrant remained silent at his second court hearing, during which the crown presented him with 50 charges of murder and 39 of attempted murder.
The alleged white supremacist is accused of opening fire in the al-Noor and Linwood mosques on March 15 in New Zealand's worst-ever shooting.
Christchurch justice precinct was guarded by armed officers but the hearing, which was open to the public, went without incident.
High Court judge Cameron Mander ordered a mental health assessment of the accused. "It is an entirely ordinary step taken in the process and I don't think anything should be read into it," Justice Mander said in front of a courtroom packed with survivors, families and media from around the world.
The 28-year-old appeared via video link from New Zealand's only maximum security prison in Auckland, more than 1,000 kilometres north of Christchurch, and watched the procedural hearing in silence.
He remained without visible emotion during the hearing, which took less than 30 minutes as he sat in a small room and occasionally seemed bored, looking around the room.
Tarrant's duty lawyer for his first court appearance said after meeting him the day after the attack, he appeared to be lucid and not mentally unstable, other than the extreme views that he held.
"The way he presented was rational and someone who was not suffering any mental disability," lawyer Richard Peters told the New Zealand Herald at the time. "He seemed to understand what was going on," he said.
Tofazzal Alam, who survived the attack at the Linwood mosque, said after the hearing he was shaken by how little emotion the accused showed.
"I wanted to see how he feels after killing so many innocent people," he said. "But he looked alright, he didn't look like he [was] bothered and he didn't show emotions."
Alam said he hoped that he would receive proper punishment.
Yama Nabi, whose father Haji-Daoud Nabi was the first victim killed at the al-Noor mosque, also attended the hearing.
He said the court case was a "waste of taxpayers' money" and wasn't going to bring the family's loved ones back. Yabi added he felt he had to come to see the accused's face and what he had to say. "He's a coward," he said.
Contrary to earlier indications that Tarrant was planning to represent himself, he was represented by lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson.
Tait issued a brief statement late Thursday saying that in any civilized society the rule of law must prevail and the rights to consult and instruct a lawyer were protected rights in New Zealand.
Justice Mander declined applications from national and international media to film, take photos or record Friday's hearing.
Tarrant was remanded in custody to reappear in Christchurch High Court on June 14.
Since the attack three weeks ago New Zealand has banned a range of semi-automatic weapons. The country's parliament on Tuesday passed the first reading of a bill that bans military-style semi-automatic weapons and brings in a raft of new gun-related criminal offences.
Social media giant Facebook changed its rules about live-streaming and hate speech after coming under fire for not acting fast enough when the alleged gunman live-streamed the attack from a camera he had fixed to his helmed.
While around 200 users watched the original live video of the Christchurch massacre there were 1.5 million attempts to upload the video in the following 24 hours.
On Thursday the Australian parliament passed tough new terrorism legislation, with harsh penalties for social media companies that broadcast violent videos.dpa