CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: The man who shot dead 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch has been formally charged with terrorism.
New Zealand police said on Tuesday they had filed a terrorism case against the Australian national. “A charge of engaging in a Terrorist Act under section 6A of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 has now been filed,” police said in a statement.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. It is also a test case for New Zealand’s terror law, which was enacted in 2002 following the 9/11 attacks.
Brenton Tarrant is facing 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder following the attack on two mosques in the South Island city on March 15. He is currently being held in a high-security prison and has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 14.
There is a debate in New Zealand over the merits of treating the case under terrorism laws, as it may draw out the length of any trial and potentially provide a platform for extremist views to be aired.
The carnage prompted the government to tighten the country’s gun laws. After the deadliest mass shooting of New Zealand’s history, the government banned military-style semi-automatic weapons in the country to prevent any such incident happening again.
The incident also sparked widespread criticism of social media platforms, which allowed the lone gunman to live-stream the massacre.
The self-proclaimed white supremacist outlined his intentions in a rambling and expletive-filled document online before carrying out the attack.
The 28-year Australian opened indiscriminate fire on men, women and children as they prayed at two of Christchurch’s mosques. He had live-streamed the attack from a head-mounted camera.