Suspect in Christchurch mosque attack to face 50 murder counts, police say

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The Australian man accused of carrying out the worst mass shooting in modern New Zealand history has appeared in court, where he was formally charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 attempted murder counts. He will appear in the court through audio-visual link from prison.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, has been charged with one count of murder, and police plan to file more charges.

The court said Tarrant would not be required to enter a plea during Friday's hearing.

Media had the right to be present and report on the hearing - other than any discussions held in chambers, as is usual court procedure - but the judge had declined applications from New Zealand and overseas media to film, take photos and record sound. "I tried to stand strong, to come here, because I don't want my mum to come here.to see what he has to say", Mr Nabi said.

New Zealand is in the process of tightening its gun laws after the attack and the government has also said it will review laws dealing with hate speech.

Tarrant is due to return to court on 14 June.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the attack "one of New Zealand's darkest days", and less than a week later announced plans to ban almost all military-style semi-automatic and assault-style rifles.

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The court has now barred media from filming or photographing the accused.

Alleged attacker Brenton Tarrant is facing 50 murder and 39 attempted murder charges over the March 15 attacks on two mosques, which shocked the world and rattled normally peaceful New Zealand.

On Tuesday, a bill which proposes banning semi-automatic firearms, magazines and parts used to assemble illegal firearms passed its first reading in Parliament, gaining the support of every lawmaker in the house, bar one.

Shane Tait, a member of Tarrant's legal team, said he was concerned the publication of the news that Tarrant's mental health was being assessed could prejudice the trial.

Fifty people, including five Indians, were killed and many others injured as they attended Friday prayers at two mosques on March 15.

Tofazzal Alam, 25, said he was worshipping at the Linwood mosque when the gunman attacked.

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