The man accused of shooting dead 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosque attacks was formally charged with terrorism for the first time on Tuesday, New Zealand police said.
“A charge of engaging in a Terrorist Act under section 6A of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 has now been filed against Brenton Tarrant,” police said in a statement.
They said that in addition to the terror charge, Tarrant now faces 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder over the March 15 attacks in the South Island city.
“The charge will allege that a terrorist act was carried out in Christchurch,” police said in a statement.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has characterized the mosque killings a well-planned “terrorist attack” since the day Tarrant, a self-described white supremacist, allegedly carried them out.
But until now the charges against him were less expansive, as New Zealand's Terrorism Suppression Act was only introduced in 2002 and is untested in the courts.
Police said the decision to lay the terror charge was made after consultations with prosecutors and government legal experts.
Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, is currently in a high security prison undergoing tests to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial.
His next court appearance is scheduled for June 14.
Police said they had met survivors and victims’ families Tuesday to explain the additional charges.
“Police are committed to providing all the support necessary for what will be a challenging and emotional court process to come for the victim's families and survivors of the attack,” they said.
NZ PM Ardern says she was taken by surprise when fiancé Gayford proposedNew Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she was surprised when her long-time partner proposed to her over the Easter holidays and has ... Variety
NZ man admits abusing Muslims at Christchurch mosqueA 33-year-old New Zealand man pleaded guilty on Friday to harassing Muslims outside one of the Christchurch mosques where dozens were gunned down in a ... World News
Saudi Arabia’s al-Jubeir attends NZ memorial serviceSaudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir attended the national memorial service in New Zealand on Friday honoring ... World News