Psychiatric test for Christchurch shooting suspect

The man apprehended after shooting 50 Muslim worshippers in a Christchurch mosque in New Zealand has been ordered to undergo psychiatric tests to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial for murder.

Survivors and relatives of those killed in the March 15 attacks were packed into the courtroom as the gunman Brenton Tarrant appeared via audio-visual link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland.

The Judge ordered the psychiatric evaluation as the gunman sat with a nonchalant look on his face.

Tarrant had sacked a court-appointed lawyer after the initial court appearance, raising fears he wanted to represent himself and attempt to use any trial as a right-wing propaganda platform.

However, two Auckland lawyers, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson, appeared in court Friday on his behalf.

He seemed unfazed by the remarks of the judge, despite being charged with 50 cases of murder and 39 attempted murder charges over the shootings at two mosques.

High Court judge Cameron Mander ruled during the brief hearing that the 28-year-old would be examined by two health assessors to determine “whether he is fit to stand trial or insane”.

Tarrant is a white supremacist and during this trial, the family members of the victims, hope the case will determine where and how he was trained and if he operated as a lone wolf or part of a wider Islamophobic operation, led by higher powers sat motionless throughout the hearing, listening intently to proceedings.

Ahead of the shooting, Tarrant posted a rambling manifesto on social media in which he identified himself by name and described himself as a white supremacist out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims.

About 50 people were in the court’s public gallery to catch a glimpse of the man charged with the deadliest massacre in modern New Zealand history.

While the public gallery could see Tarrant on screen, the position of the camera in court ensured his view from prison was restricted to the judge and lawyers.

Yama Nabi, whose 71-year-old father was killed, went to bear witness on behalf of his “heartbroken” family.

“I just wanted to see his face… it’s not going to bring the loved ones back. I was like (he’s a) coward,” he told reporters outside the court.

Tarrant has not yet entered a plea and was remanded in custody until his next court appearance on June 14.

Tarrant was initially charged with one murder count as a holding measure when he made his first court appearance a day after the killings.

However, the charges were updated Friday to include the names of all 50 who were killed in the attack and 39 others who were wounded.

The government has also said it will review laws dealing with hate speech and called for social media giants to do more to combat online extremism.

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