Three weeks on from the shootings that killed 50, Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared on Friday by video-link at the High Court at Christchurch, where 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder were laid.
The former NSW resident is being held in New Zealand’s only maximum detention prison, in Auckland, where he has no visitors or access to media reports.
A largely motionless Tarrant – on mute – appeared on a large screen in the courtroom today Friday, wearing a grey jumper, a small cell in the background.
The courtroom’s public gallery was packed by about 50 friends and families of the victims, some staring quietly at the defendant throughout.
Tarrant’s first court appearance, the day after the shooting, was closed to the general public and Friday’s hearing was the first chance for many to catch a glimpse of the accused.
“I didn’t see any emotion on his face,” Tofazzal Alam, who survived the attack on the Linwood mosques told reporters afterwards.
“I feel sorry for myself, for my friends who have been killed and for him.”
While upset after the court appearance, Alam said he was no longer afraid.
“I needed to see how he feels,” he said.
“It’s my second life. I don’t feel fear.”
Yama Nabi, whose father 71-year-old father, Haji Daoud Nabi, was killed at Al Noor Mosque, had come to spare others from having to attend.
“It’s not going to ring our loved ones back … I tried to stand strong, to come here, because I don’t want my mum to come here … to see what he has to say,” Nabi said.
Asked what he thought of the accused, Nabi replied: “Coward. No heart.”
During the less-than-half-hour court hearing on Friday, Justice Cameron Mander ordered Tarrant undergo two assessments to determine whether he may be mentally impaired, legally insane and unfit to stand trial.
This is a routine step during many New Zealand trials.
No pleas to the charges were entered.
Justice Mander also suppressed the names of those Tarrant is accused of attempting to kill.
The hearing was carried out under strict media conditions, including a ban on photography or video recording.
While it was earlier reported Tarrant was considering representing himself at trial, he has now appointed two Auckland-based lawyers for the case.
Tarrant remains in custody and will return to court on June 14.
Nabi said he would be coming back as well.
“Nobody wants their loved ones to come over here to see him,” he said.
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to contribute to InDaily.