The Australian man who opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 people and gravely injuring many others has been charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder, according to reports.
New Zealand Police, in a written statement on Thursday afternoon, announced the fresh charges against the 28-year-old. The self-proclaimed white supremacist was arrested on March 15 for the mosque shootings and was charged with one count of murder. However, police had indicated that further charges would be laid against him. Officials, in the Thursday statement, also added that they were still considering more charges.
The shooter, a former personal trainer, on March 15 stormed two mosques in Christchurch with multiple high-powered weapons and live streamed the assault on Facebook. He had posted a racist "manifesto" explaining the motivations of his attack. The massacre — New Zealand's deadliest ever — is believed to be the single-worst terrorist attack carried out by an Australian.
Christchurch High Court is set to hear his case on Friday. Reports state that the 28-year-old is currently in a maximum security prison in Auckland and will appear in court through a video link from the prison, according to ABC News. The judge presiding over the case reportedly said that Friday's hearing will be about his legal representation as the white supremacist wants to represent himself.
Judge Cameron Mander in court minutes said: "The principal purpose of the call on April 5 will be to ascertain the defendant's position regarding legal representation and to receive information from the Crown regarding certain procedural steps and when it is envisaged those steps will be completed."
Th shooter reportedly worked as a personal trainer at a gym in Grafton after he finished school. He later traveled overseas to Asia and Europe and used the money he made from Bitconnect, a cryptocurrency, to fund his travels. He did not apply for bail or for the suppression of his name at a court appearance following his arrest on March 16. He also made a white power gesture as he was brought into the court.
Shortly after the attack Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in a powerful statement, vowed immediate action, particularly on the nation's gun laws. She also urged residents to give up and surrender their semi-automatic weapons via a voluntary amnesty, saying "To make our community safer, the time to act is now." The shooter had a gun license that allowed him to obtain multiple assault weapons legally. The prime minister also said that security officers would be stationed at all mosques in the country.
The charges against him came as MPs on Thursday heard oral submission on the government’s gun law reform bill. The bill reportedly seeks a ban on military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs) and assault rifles and other related weapons. The legislation also proposes to arrange a buyback scheme for guns which have now become illegal.