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New Zealand mosque suspect to undergo mental health check

New Zealand mosque suspect to undergo mental health check

A court here on Friday morning (local time) ordered the 28-year old Christchurch terrorist, accused of killing 50 worshippers last month in a back to back firing at two mosques across Christchurch, to undergo mental health tests.

However, the charges were updated Friday to include the names of all 50 who were killed in the attack and 39 others who were wounded.

Brenton Tarrant, who is originally from Grafton in NSW, had already been charged with one count of murder.

During the half-hour hearing Justice Cameron Mander ordered Tarrant to undergo two assessments to determine whether he may be mentally impaired, legally insane or fit to stand trial.

Fifty people died in the March 15 attacks on two mosques and another 50 were injured. New Zealand has moved quickly to tighten its previously lax gun laws, among other things banning the semi-automatic and automatic military-style weapons used in the attack.

The judge says the brief hearing will mainly be about Tarrant's legal representation.

"It is an entirely ordinary step taken in the process and I don't think anything should be read into it", Mander said.

"I feel sorry for myself, for my friends who have been killed and for him".

Now in custody at New Zealand's only maximum security prison, in Paremoremo, in Auckland, Tarrant will appear in court via audiovisual link in connection with the March 15 shootings at two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 people dead.

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The man will not be required to enter a plea, the court said. Charges of murder and attempted murder are easier to pursue, however.

Brenton Tarrant, charged with murder, making a sign to the camera during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court in New Zealand March 16, 2019.

Tofazzal Alam, 25, said he was worshipping at the Linwood mosque when the gunman attacked. Analysts have said that the country's legislation regarding terrorism have proved to be complex, making charges of terrorism against the gunman a possible source of additional complications for the prosecutor in his case, with little possible difference in the outcome should he be convicted.

Media had reported that Tarrant wished to represent himself and legal experts have said he may try to use the hearings as a platform to present his ideology and beliefs.

New Zealand police on Thursday filed 49 counts of murder against Tarrant, bringing the total number of murder charges to 50.

He's now being held at New Zealand's only maximum security prison in Paremoremo, Auckland.

She has since initiated an independent judicial probe into the twin attacks, asking the police and intelligence officials to implement a royal commission - the most powerful judicial probe available under New Zealand law.

Prison officials say Tarrant is under 24-hour surveillance with no access to media, according to news reports.


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