Wednesday 24 April 2019

Mosque shooter sacks lawyer and wants to represent himself at trial

In court: Brenton Tarrant, the man charged in relation to the attack. Photo: Getty
In court: Brenton Tarrant, the man charged in relation to the attack. Photo: Getty

James Rothwell

The Australian terrorist who filmed himself killing 50 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand has asked to represent himself in court, prompting concerns the trial could become a platform to promote his far-right ideology.

Brenton Tarrant, a white supremacist who gunned down his victims with a semi-automatic rifle at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, sacked his court-appointed lawyer so he could defend himself.

Richard Peters, his former lawyer, said he "wants to be self-represented in this case".

Mr Peters, who represented Tarrant at a preliminary court hearing, played down speculation that he was mentally unfit to stand trial.

"The way he presented was rational and someone who was not suffering any mental disability. That's how he appeared. He seemed to understand what was going on," he said.

Tarrant was partially inspired by Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik, who used his own trial to expand on his crazed political ideology. For instance, on the first day of his trial in 2012, Breivik claimed his attack was an act of "self-defence" against mass migration and multiculturalism. Extracts from his propaganda videos were played during the trial and on at least one occasion he gave a Nazi salute in court.

More than 30 people remain in hospital after the New Zealand shooting, including a four-year-old girl who is in critical condition.

A British security minister warned yesterday that the attack, which was widely broadcast on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, could be copied by extremists in the UK.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme, Ben Wallace said: "It absolutely could happen here. That's why the government has been concerned about the growing group of people crossing into the extremist mindset on the far-right and the neo-Nazis."

Yesterday, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister, said she would announce new laws on gun ownership to make it more difficult to obtain semi-automatic weapons, such as those wielded by the attacker.

"Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer," she told a news conference, but did not provide further details. She has previously expressed support for a ban on semi-automatic weapons.

Irish Independent

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