Judge orders mental health assessment of Christchurch shooter

Brenton Tarrant (pixelated) makes a sign to the camera during his appearance, on a charge of murder for Christchurch mosque massacre in the District Court, Christchurch, New Zealand, 16 March 2019. At least 49 people were killed by a gunman, believed to be Brenton Harrison Tarrant, and 20 more injured and in critical condition during the terrorist attacks against two mosques in New Zealand during Friday prayers on 15 March. EPA-EFE/FILE/Martin Hunter / POOL NEW ZEALAND OUT

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA.- Australian Brenton Tarrant, author of the supremacist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in mid-March, will have to undergo two evaluations to determine his mental state before his upcoming trial, according to the judge in charge of the case on Friday.

Judge Cameron Mander of the Christchurch High Court asked for two preliminary reports to test the defendant’s ability to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges of 50 counts of murder, one for each victim of the attack, and another 39 counts of attempted murder, which he faces.

Police have said that further charges are still under consideration.

The magistrate remarked that the evaluations are «normal procedure» and an «entirely ordinary and regular step» ensuring the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

The 28-year-old Tarrant earlier had expressed his intention to assume his own legal defense, but on Thursday night it was revealed that the defendant agreed to be represented by lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson.

Tarrant, who appeared on Friday via video conference from a prison in the city of Auckland and was handcuffed, will remain in detention until his next appearance on Jun. 14, when the results of the assessments of his mental health should be known.

In the trial against Tarrant, the name of a woman was removed from the list of the deceased, after she was later found to be alive and replaced by Khalid Alhaj-Mustafa.

Also, the identities of the 39 injured people, linked to the charges of attempted murder, have been suppressed by the court and they will appear with alphanumeric codes, beginning with «W001» and ending with «W039,» according to the New Zealand Herald.

Around 50 relatives of the victims of the attack on the mosque attended the trial to follow the hearing along with more than 20 local and international journalists and under the gaze of police officers and security personnel.

Upon leaving the court, the families of the victims refused to comment to the press, saying it had been «a very sensitive day,» although Yama Nabi, whose father died in the attack on the Al Noor mosque, told journalists that he expects they will lock him up and throw the keys away.

For him, the trial against the former Australian personal trainer is not going to bring back to our loved ones and it will be a long process he said Friday.

Tofazzal Alam, a survivor of the Linwood attack, attended the trial because several of his friends died in the supremacist attack at Tarrant’s hands.

«I didn’t see any emotion on his face,» he said, referring to Tarrant, who appeared for the second time in court since his arrest on Mar. 15, the day of the attack on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, which he broadcast live for 17 minutes on social networks after earlier publishing his supremacist ideology.

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