The Australian man accused of shooting dead 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques has pleaded not guilty to murder and terror charges.
The 28-year-old will stand trial next year, after on Friday denying 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder, and one terrorism offence over the March 15 attacks in Christchurch.
Watching the proceedings in the High Court in Christchurch by video from prison in Auckland, the accused smiled as his lawyer entered the pleas to all 92 charges.
Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky shares the tales of bravery and hope after the Christchurch attacks. Post continues below audio.
Justice Cameron Mander on Friday scheduled the defendant’s trial for May 2020 and indicated it could run for at least six weeks. The trial delay is not unusual in New Zealand’s legal system, especially given that it will be a complex one.
Survivors have lamented they’ll need to wait a year for a verdict.
Temel Atacocugu, shot nine times during the attack, said he was putting his faith in New Zealand’s legal system.
“We are strong. He is the loser and we are the winners. He will lose,” he told reporters.
The court also found the man was mentally fit to stand trial after earlier requesting routine reports.
Two further rooms and some 200 seats were set aside for the public at the hearing, police officers maintaining a heavy presence in and around the precinct.
The 28-year-old will be the first person in New Zealand to face trial on a terrorism charge.
While some legal experts say that may complicate the case, Christchurch’s Muslim community have welcomed the decision by prosecutors to treat the shootings as an act of terror.
The accused is being held in New Zealand’s only maximum security jail, in Auckland, and prison staff say he has no access to television, radio, newspapers or visitors.
Wary that the former NSW resident’s trial could be used to espouse far-right extremist views, New Zealand’s major media organisations have agreed to self-imposed restrictions on reporting.
The defendant was remanded in custody to appear again on August 16 for a case review hearing.