Auckland, March 26, 2020
The man accused of the Christchurch massacre on March 15, 2019 pleaded guilty today (March 26, 2020) at the Christchurch High Court.
At this morning’s hearing, only a small number of people were allowed into the courtroom due to the restrictions in place in the Covid-19 nationwide lockdown.
Australian Brenton Tarrant was due to go on trial for 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act.
He had been convicted of the charges.
Until today, he had denied all the charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. There was no explanation for his change of stance.
By entering a guilty plea, he became the first convicted terrorist in New Zealand.
The gruesome murders
On March 15, 2019, Tarrant walked heavily armed into Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch shortly after the Friday prayer had begun and started shooting. In about six minutes, he killed 42 people. About ten minutes later, he arrived at the Linwood Islamic Centre and unable to find the entrance, began shooting from outside.
He killed seven people before he was chased from the Mosque’s grounds by worshipper Abdul Aziz, who picked up and threw a bank card reader at the gunman, and used one of Tarrant’s own firearms as a spear which he threw through the terrorist’s car windscreen.
A 50th victim died soon after in Christchurch Hospital, while the 51st victim passed away 48 days after the attacks.
Royal Commission of Inquiry
An Internal Affairs press release said that the Royal Commission of Inquiry instituted to probe into the massacre that the Royal Commission cannot inquire into the guilt or innocence of any individual charged in relation to the attack.
“That is not our role. For this reason, today’s developments do not directly impact the Royal Commission’s inquiry process. It is however, hugely significant for families and survivors who will now be absorbing this news. The current Covid-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions that all New Zealanders now face, are also having a significant impact on the inquiry. Staff are committed to getting the job done and continue to work from home, but there are some aspects of our work that cannot be managed remotely,” the press release said.
FIANZ welcomes guilty plea
Federation of Islamic Association of New Zealand (FIANZ) President Dr Mustafa Farouk said that the Muslim community relieved by the guilty plea of the terrorist.
“At a time when the country is focused on working together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, this news is most welcome. We are particularly relieved that the victims and their families are being spared the obvious agony of a trial. We would like to again acknowledge the New Zealand Police, the First Responders, the hospitals as well as the various health professionals for the services they have provided and continue to provide for the victims” he said.
“FIANZ also would like to convey our heartfelt appreciation of the support of the government and the whole of New Zealand to those victims who suffered from the tragedy of 15 March. Our national focus now is on overcoming this COVID-19 as one united people,” Dr Farouk said.
Islamic Women speak out
Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand National Coordinator Dr Maysoon Salama said the guilty plea of the accused will relieve some of the stress on those most directly affected by the horror.
“While a guilty plea could have been made much earlier, it is important that victims and their families now will not have to deal with the burden of a full court trial. It spares us from any attempt to defend or justify the horrific attacks last year. We will now have to await sentencing later in the year, before this matter can be closed for us,” she said.