World

Judge orders psychiatric test for Christchurch shooting suspect

5 April 2019 - 53   - 0

The man accused of shooting dead 50 Muslim worshippers in a Christchurch mosque sat impassively Friday as a New Zealand judge ordered him to undergo tests to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial for murder.

Survivors and relatives of those killed in the March 15 attacks packed into a Christchurch courtroom as alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant appeared via audio-visual link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland.

The 28-year-old Australian faces 50 murder and 39 attempted murder charges over the shootings at two mosques, which shocked the world and rattled normally peaceful New Zealand.

High Court judge Cameron Mander ruled during the brief hearing that Tarrant would be examined by two health assessors to determine "whether he is fit to stand trial or insane".

The suspect -- a self-avowed white supremacist -- sat motionless throughout the hearing, listening intently to proceedings.

He was not required to enter a plea and was remanded in custody until his next court appearance on June 14.

About 50 people were in the court's public gallery to catch a glimpse of the man charged with the deadliest massacre in modern New Zealand history.

While the public gallery could see Tarrant on screen, the position of the camera in court ensured his view from prison was restricted to the judge and lawyers.

For most, Tarrant's appearance on screen was the first chance to see the face of the man accused of gunning down their loved ones in cold blood.

Yama Nabi, whose 71-year-old father was killed, went to bear witness on behalf of his "heartbroken" family.

"I just wanted to see his face... it's not going to bring the loved ones back. I was like (he's a) coward," he told reporters outside the court.

Survivor Tofazzal Alam lay down in the Linwood mosque to avoid being shot during the attack and never saw the gunman up close.

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