WELLINGTON – New Zealand police have charged the man accused of murder in shootings at two Christchurch mosques in March with engaging in a terrorist act, they said Tuesday.
In an attack broadcast live on Facebook, a lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers, killing 51 worshippers and wounding dozens of people.
Tuesday’s charge under terrorism suppression legislation was filed against Brenton Tarrant, police said.
“The charge will allege that a terrorist act was carried out in Christchurch on 15 March 2019,” Commissioner of Police Mike Bush said in a statement.
An additional charge of murder and two more charges of attempted murder have also been filed against Tarrant, so that the suspected white supremacist faces a total of 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder.
Tarrant’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tarrant is next due to appear in court on June 14, after being remanded in custody in April and ordered to undergo psychiatric assessment to determine if he was fit to stand trial.
Police notified roughly 200 family members of attack victims and survivors about the additional charges at a meeting on Tuesday, the statement added.