Christchurch gunman appears in court for 2nd time

(190317) -- CHRISTCHURCH, March 17, 2019 (Xinhua) -- A policeman stands guard near a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 17, 2019. The death toll from the terror attacks on two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch has risen to 50 as one more victim was found at one of the shooting scenes, the police said on Sunday. (Xinhua/Guo Lei)

Christchurch,  The Australian man accused of killing 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques here on March 15, appeared in a court on Friday via video link, where he was formally charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 attempted murder counts.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared via video link in Christchurch High Court in front of Justice Cameron Mander, reports CNN.

He is being held at New Zealand’s only maximum security prison in Paremoremo.

While families in the court cried quietly as Tarrant appeared on screen, handcuffed with his hands in front of him, he appeared relaxed, looking around the room at times.

Tarrant did not address the court. He was not required to enter a plea, and was told to reappear on June 14, after a court-ordered mental health assessment.

It’s standard for defendants to be evaluated by two health experts to determine their fitness for trial.

The prosecutors were also considering whether to lay charges against Tarrant under the seldom-used Terrorism Suppression Act, which was introduced after the September 11, 2000 US terrorist attacks, reports The New Zealand Herald.

But they would require the consent of the Solicitor-General to lay terror charges against the accused.

Tarrant was arrested within 21 minutes of the first emergency calls being received by police following attacks on Muslim worshippers at the city’s Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.

He was charged at the time with one count of murder and remanded in custody without a plea.

During his first appearance in court on March 16, the courtroom was closed to the public, the name of the victim was withheld by authorities and a judge ruled that pictures of the suspect in court must have his face blurred.

Despite the extra security measures, the suspect, who arrived in handcuffs, was pictured making what appeared to be a hand gesture associated with the white supremacist movement.

Tarrant quickly dismissed his first lawyer, but has retained counsel.