New Zealand mosque shooting suspect drops bid to move trial

Survivors and grieving families of victims welcome news that the trial will be in Christchurch when it starts in June.

The man accused of murdering 51 Muslim worshippers in March’s New Zealand mosque attacks has dropped a bid to move his trial from the city where the mass shooting took place.

The High Court held a pre-trial hearing in Christchurch on Thursday to consider an application from accused gunman Brenton Tarrant to move the trial venue to Auckland on the North Island. Christchurch is on the South Island.

But judge Cameron Mander announced at the beginning of proceedings that the defence had decided not to pursue the application, which was originally lodged in August.

No reason was given for the decision.

The 28-year-old Australian has pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and engaging in a ‘terrorist’ to act.

Tarrant, a self-avowed white supremacist, appeared at the hearing via audio-visual link from a maximum security jail in Auckland, although media were barred from filming or photographing him.

Many of the 80 or so people packed into the courtroom expressed dismay at Tarrant’s behaviour during the brief hearing as he smirked, winked and tried to shout something with his hand cupped around his mouth.

His trial will begin on June 2 next year.

The unexpected development was welcomed by survivors and relatives of those killed in the March 15 attacks, who had worried they would have had to travel to the North Island to appear as witnesses or observe the proceedings.

The Christchurch attack was the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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