Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year old Australian citizen, accused of killing at least 49 people at two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand appeared in a district court.
Wearing a white prison suit, Tarrant appeared handcuffed and barefoot. Flanked by two police officers, he smirked when media persons photographed him during the hearing and were seen making the white power gesture.
Throughout the hearing, Tarrant, who had a cut on his upper lip, remained silent and looked at the media persons in the public gallery.
His court-appointed lawyer made no application for bail or name suppression. He was remanded without a plea until his next scheduled appearance in the South Island city’s High Court on April 5.
The terror attack suspect, who live-streamed for about 17 minutes his rampage through two mosques here, is an Australian-born citizen and is a resident of Dunedin, situated around 360 km south of Christchurch.
Tarrant is accused of murdering a man, whose name was suppressed by Judge Paul Kellar on grounds of undue hardship to his family.
It was “reasonable to assume” Tarrant would face further murder charges, Judge Kellar said.
The suspect was remanded in custody without plea to the High Court in Christchurch on April 5. Duty lawyer Richard Peters made it clear during the hearing that no bail application would be made.
The attack, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labeled as terrorism, was the worst ever peacetime mass killing in New Zealand and the country raised its security threat level to the highest.
Footage of the attack on one of the mosques was broadcast live on Facebook, and a “manifesto” was also posted online that denounced immigrants as “invaders”.
The video footage showed a man driving to the mosque, entering it and shooting randomly at people inside. Worshippers, possibly dead or wounded, lay on the floor, the video showed.
Police said two other people were in custody. Armed police were deployed at several locations in all cities, unusual in a country where levels of gun violence are low.
Ardern said the main suspect was a licensed gun owner who used five weapons during his rampage, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns. According to the police, 41 people were killed at Al Noor mosque and seven at Linwood mosque while one injured died in a hospital.
Several guns have been recovered from both mosques, while, two explosive devices were found on two vehicles at the scene, one of which was defused, the police confirmed.
Condemning the terror strike, Ardern had described it as a “terror attack” and said it “appears to have been well planned”. She asserted that New Zealand “will not and cannot be shaken” by this attack.
With inputs from news agencies.