Attacks on Christchurch Mosque: Shooter changes his guilty plea

Attacks on Christchurch Mosque: Shooter changes his guilty plea

A suspected white supremacist accused of killing 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand's worst mass shooting changed his plea to guilty in a surprise move on Thursday.

He also pleaded guilty to 40 charges of attempted murder and a terrorism charge, TVNZ said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the admission of guilt would provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered in the attack.

The abrupt change of plea comes one year after the deadliest massacre in New Zealand sent the country into grieving.

The lockdown meant Tarrant appeared in the court via video link from his jail cell in Auckland and only a handful of people were allowed inside the courtroom, including the imams from the two mosques that were attacked. New Zealand Police say Tarrant will not be sentenced until it is possible for all victims who wish to attend the hearing to do so - something that may be delayed by the current pandemic.

"The whole nation, but particularly the Muslim community, has been spared a trial that could have acted as a platform", Ardern said. Tarrant was remanded in custody until another court appearance on May 1, TVNZ reported.

On March 15, 2019, Tarrant allegedly stormed the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in central Christchurch during midday prayers and opened fire using high-powered, military-style semi-automatic firearms. The making of a mass killer • Does New Zealand need hate speech laws after terror attacks?

The defendant's lawyers had indicated only Tuesday that their client wanted to be brought before the court. "I wonder if his guilty plea reduces the likelihood of that", he said in a tweet after the guilty pleas.

"I'm happy that he has accepted that he is guilty", Atacocugu said.

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