Tofazzal Alam, a survivor of the Linwood Mosque shootings, speaks to the media outside the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, April 5, 2019. A New Zealand judge has ordered that the man accused of killing 50 people at two New Zealand mosques undergo two mental health tests to determine if he’s fit to enter pleas in the case. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

New Zealand mosque suspect to undergo mental health check

Brenton Harrison Tarrant has been charged with 50 counts of murder, 39 counts of attempted murder

A New Zealand judge on Friday ordered that the man accused of killing 50 people at two Christchurch mosques undergo two mental health assessments to determine if he’s fit to stand trial.

High Court judge Cameron Mander made the order during a hearing in which 28-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared via video link from a small room at the maximum security Paremoremo prison in Auckland.

Mander said nothing should be read into his order for the mental health assessments, as it was a normal step in such a case. Lawyers said it could take two or three months to complete.

The judge said Tarrant was charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder. Police initially filed a single, representative murder charge before filing the additional charges this week.

Tarrant was wearing handcuffs and a grey-colored sweater when he appeared on a large screen inside the Christchurch courtroom, which was packed with family members and victims of the shooting, some in wheelchairs and hospital gowns and still recovering from gunshot wounds.

Tarrant had stubble and close-cropped hair. He showed no emotion during the hearing. At times he looked around the room or cocked his head, seemingly to better hear what was being said. The judge explained that from his end, Tarrant could see the judge and lawyers but not those in the public gallery.

READ MORE: 50 murder counts filed on New Zealand mosque attack suspect

Tarrant spoke only once to confirm to the judge he was seated, although his voice didn’t come through because the sound was muted. It wasn’t immediately clear if his link had been deliberately or inadvertently muted.

The courtroom was filled with more than two dozen reporters and about 60 members of the public. A court registrar greeted people in Arabic and English as the hearing got underway. Some of those watching got emotional and wept.

In the March 15 attacks, 42 people were killed at the Al Noor mosque, seven were killed at the Linwood mosque and one more person died later.

The day after the attacks, Tarrant dismissed an appointed lawyer, saying he wanted to represent himself. But he has now hired two Auckland lawyers to represent him, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson. The next court hearing was scheduled for June 14, and the mental health findings would determine whether he is required to enter a plea then.

Outside the courtroom, Yama Nabi, whose father died in the attacks, said he felt helpless watching.

“We just have to sit in the court and listen,” Nabi said. “What can we do? We can’t do nothing. Just leave it to the justice of New Zealand and the prime minister.”

Tofazzal Alam, 25, said he was worshipping at the Linwood mosque when the gunman attacked. He felt it was important to attend the hearing because so many of his friends were killed.

Alam said he felt upset seeing Tarrant.

“It seems he don’t care what has been done. He has no emotion. He looks all right,” Alam said. “I feel sorry. Sorry for myself. Sorry for my friends who have been killed. And for him.”

Nick Perry, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

RCMP investigating suspicious fire at Nanaimo apartment building

Early morning fire ignited under balcony at building on Glen Eagle Crescent

House fire displaces family of five in Nanaimo

Dog and cat still unaccounted for following house fire on East Wellington Road on Monday

POLL: How often do you see motorists throw cigarette butts out the window?

How often do you see motorists throw lit cigarette butts out the… Continue reading

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bike and hike elsewhere

Letter writer disappointed in Nanaimo council for even considering discussing military range access

Man suffers burns, dog dies in fire in Nanaimo

Structure burns down on Clifford Road property in Cedar

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

Ginger Goodwin’s Cumberland cemetery grave desecrated

Just days before the Miners Memorial weekend, Ginger Goodwin’s grave has been… Continue reading

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

Most Read