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Christchurch mosque attacks suspect pleads guilty

Christchurch mosque attacks suspect pleads guilty

DPA
Sydney
The Australian man accused of killing 51 people and wounding dozens of others in two Christchurch mosques in March 2019, on Thursday changed his pleas from not guilty to guilty, New Zealand police said.
The 29-year-old accused, who appeared via video-link in a hurriedly arranged High Court session in Christchurch at the defendant’s request, admitted to the 51 murder and 40 attempted murder charges, as well as one charge of engaging in a terrorist act, police said in a statement.
The names of all 51 people killed on March 15, 2019 were read to the man before he was asked how he pleaded to the murder charges, New Zealand media reported.
“Oh, OK. Yes, guilty,” he reportedly said before pleading guilty again when asked about the attempted murder and terrorism charges.
The alleged white supremacist pleaded not guilty to all 92 charges through his lawyers last June. Then, he also appeared by video link from a prison in Auckland, more than 1,000 kilometres north of Christchurch, where he is being held in isolation in a high-security wing.
“Police appreciate this news will come as a surprise to the victims and the public, some of whom may have wished to be present in the courtroom,” the statement read.
Survivors of the attack expressed relief at the development, which will likely save them a drawn-out and painful trial.
“This is good news, I am happy - it will save us a lot of time and a lot of stress,” survivor Temel Atacocugu, who was shot nine times by Tarrant, told the NZ Herald newspaper.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed: “The guilty plea today will provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered by what happened on March 15.
“These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial.
“I can’t make any further comment given that sentencing is yet to happen,” Ardern said.
However, the surprise development also threw up a lot of questions.
“For me this is a good result, but I have questions,” said Atacocugu.
“I want to know why he changed his plea - the judge should have asked him why, there are lots of question marks.”

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