New Zealand: Christchurch mosque attacker pleads guilty

Today's court hearing in Christchurch

Accused Christchurch mosque attacker who live-streamed killing spree changes plea to guilty

He admitted murdering 51 people at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 previous year, and also pleaded guilty to 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act.

Instead, Tarrant appeared in court via video link on Thursday local time and told the judge he would change his plea from not guilty to guilty of 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism.

Fifty-one people died in the Christchurch mass shootings on March 15, 2019, the darkest day on New Zealand's history.

The accused pleaded not guilty to all the charges during previous hearings.

He has now admitted carrying out the attacks in a High Court hearing in Christchurch on Thursday morning. New Zealand Police say Tarrant will not be sentenced until it is possible for all victims who wish to attend the hearing to do so - something that may be delayed by the current pandemic. The killer will remain in custody until 1 May 2020, at which time a sentencing date will be set or there will be continued detainment.

An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said the department was unable to comment specifically on this case and on whether Tarrant could be deported to Australia prior to the sentencing hearing.

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Ardern said she will still refuse to speak the terrorist's name.

Brenton Tarrant, 29, an Australian who espoused a white supremacist ideology, had been scheduled to go on trial in June.

The shooting led to a dramatic and swift reform of New Zealand's gun laws including a ban on the ownership and sale of the semi-automatic weapons used in the attack.

"The guilty pleas represent a very significant step towards bringing finality to this criminal proceeding", he said.

The defendant's lawyers had indicated only Tuesday that their client wanted to be brought before the court.

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