The self-declared white supremacist accused of the Christchurch mosques shootings in New Zealand has been charged with terrorism.
Brenton Tarrant is now facing 92 charges, including the 51 counts of murder and 40 of attempted murder that he had already been charged with, and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
He is the first person to be indicted under the country’s counter-terror legislation.
The addition of a terror charge means that Tarrant’s motivations will have to be examined in court, raising concerns that the case will give him a platform to air his extremist views.
Survivors of the atrocity and victims’ families were told about the new charges at a meeting with detectives on Tuesday.
“A charge of engaging in a Terrorist Act under section 6A of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 has now been filed against Brenton Tarrant," police said in a statement.
“The charge will allege that a terrorist act was carried out in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 and follows consultation between Police, Crown Law and the Christchurch Crown Solicitors Office.” The 28-year-old former personal trainer from the northern New South Wales city of Grafton is accused of the single-worst terrorist attack perpetrated by an Australian.
He has previously appeared at the Christchurch High Court via video link and has not yet been asked to enter a plea to the charges. He allegedly outlined his intentions in a rambling and expletive-filled document online before carrying out the shootings.
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He is currently being held in isolation at the maximum security Auckland Prison in Paremoremo, and is due back in court next month.
Tarrant is accused of murdering and maiming men, women and children as they prayed at two of Christchurch’s mosques: the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.
Among the dead were refugees who had fled the conflict in Syria, along with migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. The youngest victim of the heavily-armed gunman was just three years old. Mucaad Ibrahim was born in New Zealand to Somali parents, and was separated from his father and brother during the rampage.