SYDNEY – The man arrested in relation to the Christchurch mosque shootings will face 50 charges of murder and 39 of attempted murder, New Zealand Police announced on Thursday.
“Police can now confirm the man arrested in relation to the Christchurch terror attacks will face 50 Murder and 39 Attempted Murder charges when he appears in the High Court in Christchurch on Friday 5 April,” New Zealand Police said on Twitter.
It added that other charges are under consideration.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, was arrested on March 15 – the day of the massacre. He is scheduled to testify on Friday through audio-visual link in front of the Christchurch High Court.
He is reportedly being held in isolation in a high security wing of Auckland Prison in Paremoremo.
At a hearing on March 16, the accused turned down his legal counsel and said he wanted to defend himself against the charges.
Duty lawyer Richard Peters, who was originally representing Tarrant, said last month that the suspect was lucid and not mentally unstable beyond expressing extreme views.
The accused representing himself at trial raises concerns that he will try to promote his extremist beliefs.
Fifty people lost their lives and another 50 were wounded in the terror attack against Muslims who had gathered in the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch for Friday prayers on March 15.
Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said the shooter had used five guns, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns.
“A lever-action firearm was also found,” she said, later adding that the guns appeared to have been modified.
Six days after the attack, Ardern announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, as well as high-capacity magazines and parts that can modify weapons into semi-automatics, which she hopes will be approved by the middle of this month.
Around 250,000 people in New Zealand have a gun license. To own a rifle or shotgun, people must apply for a standard, category-A license. Those aged 16 and over are eligible to apply and must pass police background checks, a firearms safety course and an interview, among other procedures.
Tarrant acquired his category-A license in 2017 after passing the required checks.