Christchurch gunman pleads guilty to attacks

Brenton Tarrant had previously denied charges and was due to go to trial in June
Thursday 26/03/2020
Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the dock during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019 (REUTERS)
Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the dock during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019 (REUTERS)

LONDON – In a surprise move, Brenton Tarrant has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder for his role in the deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch last year. 

Australian national Tarrant, aged 29, had previously denied the charges despite the clear evidence against him and was due to go to trial in June. He also admitted the attempted murder of another 40 people and one terrorism charge. 

Dressed in military fatigues and armed with automatic weapons, Tarrant attacked the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch on 15 March, 2019, killing 51 worshippers. The attack, which was livestreamed on the internet, shocked the world, with many observers viewing this as part of a global phenomenon of rising Islamophobia. 

Tarrant did not appear in court to change his verdict given that New Zealand, like many countries around the world, is in a nation-wide lockdown in an attempt to control the coronavirus outbreak but changed his plea via video link from his prison cell. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the guilty plea represented a “relief” for families of victims. 

“The guilty plea today will provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered by what happened on March 15,” Ardern said. 

“These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial,” she added. 

Two imams from the Al Noor and Linwood mosques attended the hastily arranged court session as representatives of the victims to witness Tarrant’s guilty plea. Sentencing will not take place until after the end of the coronavirus lockdown, when it will be possible for victims of the attacks, and their families, to attend.