The New Zealand police on Saturday produced the Christchruch shooter, who filmed himself rampaging through two city mosques killing 49 worshippers, in the court. Wearing handcuffs and a white prison shirt, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, an Australian right wing extremist, appeared in the dock sitting impassively as the judge read out single murder charge against him.
Tarrant, the former fitness instructor and self-professed fascist smirked and made white power gesture as media persons present in the court room clicked photographs during the brief hearing that was held behind closed doors for security reasons. He did not request bail and was taken into custody until the next hearing on April 5.
As many as 49 people were killed and 42 others, including a four-year-old child, sustained serious injuries after in the mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques - the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Masjid Mosque. The gunman live streamed the horrific attack as he shot victims at Al Noor Mosque and wrote a 37-page manifesto about his intentions. "it is a terrorist attack," the shooter had said in the live video while he continued firing indiscriminately at people inside the Al Noor Mosque.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the spree killing as a terrorist attack and said the shooter—who was not on any watchlist and did not have a criminal record—had legally purchased the two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and lever-action gun he used.
"While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence, and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now—our gun laws will change,” she vowed.
The suspect documented his radicalisation and two years of preparations in a lengthy, meandering and conspiracy filled far-right “manifesto”. He live-streamed footage of himself going room-to-room, victim to victim, shooting the wounded from close range as they struggled to crawl away in the main Christchurch mosque.
Two other people remain in custody, although their link to the attack is unknown. A third person who was earlier arrested was said to be a member of the public with a firearm who was trying to help. Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found in a car and neutralised by the military, while police raided a home in Dunedin, where Ardern said the suspect was based.
Tributes to the victims poured in from around the world. US President Donald Trump condemned the “horrible massacre” in which “innocent people have so senselessly died”, but denied that the problem of right-wing extremism was widespread.
Speaking in Sydney, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”. The shooter’s two targets were the Masjid al Noor mosque, where 41 people were killed, and a second, smaller mosque in the suburb of Linwood, where seven more died. The remaining victim succumbed in hospital.
(With agency inputs)