The suspect in the massacres at two New Zealand mosques pleaded not guilty on Friday local time to all charges related to the mass shooting.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant pleaded in Christchurch High Court to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of engaging in a terrorist act, The Guardian reported. His trial is expected to start May 4, 2020, after Justice Cameron Mander declared him fit to stand trial based on mental health assessments.
The 28-year-old Australian appeared in court via video link from prison, where he’s being held in isolation. He reportedly smirked as his attorney entered not-guilty pleas on his behalf, according to The Washington Post.
This is the suspect’s third formal court appearance since the March 15 attacks on Al Noor and Linwood mosques. He was charged at his last appearance in April with 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder, but the charges were amended after the May 2 death of Zekeriya Tuyan.
The suspect is the first person to be charged under New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
More than 50 people died as a result of the New Zealand massacres. The suspect appears to be a white supremacist motivated by U.S.-based extremism, having posted a manifesto online that declared his hatred for Muslims and idolizing extremist movements in the U.S. He also reportedly live-streamed the attack on Facebook.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern swiftly banned military-style weapons in the country less than a month after the shootings. The massacre rocked New Zealand, a country with little history of major gun violence before the Christchurch attack.