Christchurch mosque shooting suspect back in court today

Christchurch mosque shooting suspect back in court today

A New Zealand judge on Friday ordered the accused Christchurch mosque gunman to undergo a mental health assessment to determine if he is fit to face trial for the murder of 50 Muslim worshippers.

The 28-year-old, a self-confessed white supremacist, sat still with an impassive face during the preliminary hearing, in contrast to his first court appearance when he smirked at the media and appeared to flash a white nationalist hand signal.

However, the charges were updated Friday to include the names of all 50 who were killed in the attack and 39 others who were wounded.

"The principal objective of the call on April 5 will be to ascertain the defendant's position regarding legal representation and to receive information from the Crown regarding certain procedural steps and when it is envisaged those steps will be completed", said Judge Cameron Mander.

Shane Tait, left, a lawyer acting for Brenton Harrison Tarrant, talks with media outside the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, on April 5, 2019.

The court said Tarrant would not be required to enter a plea during Friday's hearing.

"Despite Mr Tait's reservations to that's an appropriate step to take at this point to prevent delay", Mander said.

The terror attacks at the al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre led to a major overhaul of the gun laws in New Zealand.

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The hearing was carried out under strict media conditions, including a ban on photography or video recording, as dozens of reporters filled the room, some seated in the jury box to make space.

Tarrant earlier dismissed lawyer Richard Peters, who was assigned to represent him during his district court appearance.

Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo said Tarrant had spent just 45 days in Australia over the past few years.

Stuff understands the court has the ability to mute an audio-visual link if it is deemed necessary.

Austrian authorities say Tarrant also donated 1,500 euros ($2,200) to Generation Identity's sister organization, the Identitarian Movement of Austria.

The attacks were described at the time by New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern as "the worst" in the country's history.

"You were quick to mention this is not the New Zealand that you know".