Christchurch mosque attacker to face 50 murder charges
Wellington, Apr 4 (UNI): The Australian man arrested for the Christchurch terror attacks will face 50 murder and 39 attempt to murder charges when he appears in the court in Christchurch on Friday, New Zealand police said on Thursday.
The 28-year-old accused was previously charged with one murder as a holding measure, but police said on Thursday that all the deaths and injuries in the March 15 attacks will now be reflected in the upgraded charges during his court appearance.
"The man arrested in relation to the Christchurch terror attacks will face 50 murder and 39 attempted murder charges when he appears in the High Court in Christchurch on Friday," Radio New Zealand quoted a brief statement by police.
"Other charges are still under consideration," the police statement added.
The attack saw him use semi-automatic weapons to kill and wound locals attending Friday prayers at their mosques. The youngest victim was just three years old. The gunman broadcast his attack live on Facebook.
The shootings at the al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre shocked a nation, generally regarded as one of the safest in the world.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the massacre, the worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in New Zealand, as a "terrorist attack" and some legal experts believe this could result in charges under New Zealand's terrorism laws.
The accused is due to appear in Christchurch's High Court through a video link from a maximum security prison in Auckland on Friday. A High Court judge said in court minutes this week that the appearance would largely be procedural and the accused would not be required to enter a plea to the charges he faced.
The accused had sacked a court-appointed lawyer after his first court appearance on March 16, raising fears he wanted to represent himself and attempt to use any trial as a propaganda platform.
Sixteen people remain in hospitals in Auckland and Christchurch after the shootings that killed 50 people on 15 March. One person remains in a critical condition in the intensive care unit at Christchurch Hospital while 11 others are all stable.Two patients are at Burwood Hospital and a four-year-old girl is in Starship Children's Hospital. Her father is also stable in Auckland City Hospital.
Picture credit: Xinhua/UNI