New Zealand white supremacist terrorist charged with 49 more mosque murders

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Temel Atacocugu (C), a survivor of the March 15 twin mosque massacre, leaves the Christchurch District Court on April 5, 2019 after alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant, accused of shooting dead 50 Muslims during the March 15 attack on two mosques, appeared for his hearing via audio-visual link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland. (AFP / Sanka Vidanagama)
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Journalists gather outside the Christchurch District Court on April 5, 2019 as alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant, accused of shooting dead 50 Muslims during the March 15 attack on two mosques, appeared for his hearing via audio-visual link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland. (AFP / Sanka Vidanagama)
Updated 05 April 2019
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New Zealand white supremacist terrorist charged with 49 more mosque murders

  • Australian Brenton Tarrant shot dead 50 worshippers and wounded dozens more in two mosques on March 15
  • The white supremacist has been moved to New Zealand’s only maximum-security prison in Auckland

CHRISTCHURCH: Australian Brenton Tarrant appeared in a New Zealand court on Friday where the suspected white supremacist was charged with an additional 49 counts of murder at two mosques last month.
In an attack broadcast live on Facebook, a lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on March 15, killing 50 worshippers and wounding dozens of people.
Tarrant, who was charged with one murder a day after the shooting attack, was also charged with 39 attempted murders on Friday.
The High Court judge overseeing the appearance ordered Tarrant to undergo a mental assessment to determine whether he was fit to stand trial. He was not required to submit a plea.
Tarrant, 28, has been moved to New Zealand’s only maximum-security prison in Auckland and appeared at the Christchurch High Court through a video link.
Tarrant was then remanded to custody until June 14.
High Court Judge Cameron Mander said whether Tarrant would be required to enter a plea at his next appearance depended on his mental health assessment and “any other developments.”
Legal experts said two mental health experts would likely assess Tarrant, while police, who have not ruled out further charges, would continue to investigate New Zealand’s worst peacetime mass killing.
Prison officials say Tarrant is under 24-hour surveillance with no access to media, according to news reports.
He appeared via video handcuffed and seated, wearing a grey prison t-shirt. He listened calmly throughout the hearing, which lasted roughly 20 minutes.
Around two dozen family members of victims and some survivors of the attacks were present in the courtroom.
“The man had no emotion,” said Tofazzal Alam, a regular at one of the mosques, when asked about seeing the suspect on video.
Tarrant would be represented by two Auckland lawyers, one of them, Shane Tait, said in a statement on his website, which did not include any comments on the case.
Tait on Friday said he was arranging for his client to receive psychiatric assessment and that the process would take “some months,” according to court minutes.
“As I observed at this morning’s hearing, that is a usual and regular step for counsel to take at this point in the proceeding,” said Judge Mander.
Media had reported that Tarrant wished to represent himself and legal experts have said he may try to use the hearings as a platform to present his ideology and beliefs.
“If he has lawyers, he will be speaking a lot less in court,” said Graeme Edgeler, a Wellington-based barrister and legal commentator. “He can still give evidence...that’s possible, but if he’s represented by lawyers and it goes to trial he won’t be asking questions of people.”
Although journalists were able to attend and take notes, coverage of the hearing was restricted, with media only allowed to publish pixellated images of Tarrant that obscure his face. The judge also suppressed the names of people he was alleged to have attempted to murder.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labelled the massacre an act of terrorism and quickly introduced tough new firearm laws which banned semi-automatic weapons.
Muslims worldwide have praised New Zealand’s response to the massacre, with many singling out Ardern’s gesture of wearing a headscarf to meet victims’ families and urging the country to unite with the call: “We are one.”
Thousands of visitors to the reopened Al Noor mosque, where 42 people were killed, have offered condolences and sought to learn more about Islam, said Israfil Hossain, who recites the daily call to prayer there.
“They are coming from far just to say sorry ... although they never did anything to us,” said Hossain, 26.
On Thursday, a group of Carmelite nuns stood for the first time inside a mosque, holding back tears as they talked with worshippers about the two faiths.
“Everybody has their own problems and they have their own ideas about religions, and that’s fine, and we should all have that, we’re all different,” said one nun, Sister Dorothea.
“But we’re all humans and that’s the most important thing, our humanity.”


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.