Crime & Justice

Sentencing date set for New Zealand mosque attack gunman

Sydney, Australia, July 3 (efe-epa).- The Australian man who admitted to committing the 2019 terror attack against two New Zealand mosques that killed 51 people will be sentenced on Aug. 24, judicial sources announced Friday.

On Mar. 26, Brenton Tarrant pleaded guilty to all charges – 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one under the Terrorism Suppression Act – by videolink from high-security prison in Auckland at an unscheduled hearing in the High Court in the South Island city of Christchurch, where the attack took place on Mar. 15, 2019.

As Tarrant, 29, pleaded guilty – after previously denying all charges – the trial scheduled to begin on July 2 was not held. He is now awaiting sentencing, which was postponed on Mar. 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and faces life in prison.

New Zealand High Court Justice Cameron Mander said on Friday that the sentencing hearing will begin on Aug. 24 in Christchurch and could last three days or more if necessary, according to the court document obtained by EFE.

“Now, in the absence of community transmission of the COVID-19 virus in New Zealand, our courts have returned to normal operations. The public and, importantly, victims and their families living in New Zealand can attend court sittings,” Mander said in a judicial minute released on Friday.

The judge said that the sentencing date “will allow adequate time for necessary arrangements to be made” for victims and family members of the deceased, including those who are not residents or citizens of New Zealand and who are currently abroad, to enter the country, which has closed its borders to foreigners due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and abide by the 14-day quarantine requirement.

The massacre began when the Australian white supremacist livestreamed himself on social media heading to Al Noor mosque with firearms. There he opened fire as he went inside, killing and wounding dozens of worshipers observing Friday prayers.

He then drove to Linwood mosque where he continued his attack and was arrested afterwards when his car was rammed off the road by police. He was thought to be on his way to another location to continue his shooting spree.

It was the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history, and Tarrant was the first to be charged under the 2002 Terrorism Suppression Act.

Within a week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had passed strict gun reform laws, and a couple of months later launched the Christchurch Call with French President Emmanuel Macron to eliminate violent and extremist content online.

She also announced the setting up of a special commission to investigate the attacks. EFE-EPA

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