WELLINGTON, 26 MARCH 2020 (NEWSROOM) — The terrorist who attacked two mosques on March 15, 2019, and killed 51 people in New Zealand has pleaded guilty to charges of terrorism, murder, and attempted murder

Gunman Brenton Tarrant has pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one of engaging in a terrorist act.

The terrorist had previously pleaded not guilty to all charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. However, a surprise court appearance for him on Thursday morning was booked late Wednesday, as the country prepared to enter a four-week lockdown to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the appearance was scheduled “at short notice after the defendant indicated, via his counsel on Tuesday afternoon that he wished to be brought before the court”.

Tarrant appeared via video-link from Auckland’s Paremoremo Prison to change his pleas. Imams from the two mosques attacked were present in the courtroom.

On 15 March, the terrorist drove to Masjid Al-Noor in Christchurch and opened fire during Friday prayers. In the course of the attack, 42 people were murdered there and two others died of their wounds in hospital. The man then drove to Linwood Mosque and resumed shooting, murdering another seven people.

The attack was live-streamed for 17 minutes on Facebook, which then froze the stream and took it down. More than 1.5 million copies of the video were uploaded to Facebook in the subsequent 24 hours and 1.2 million of these uploads were blocked.

Tarrant was motivated by white supremacy and a belief in the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which posits that Western civilization and the white race will be destroyed by non-white migrants who have higher birth rates than Europeans.

The attack was the worst mass shooting in New Zealand history and led to an immediate change in gun laws, including the banning of military-style semi-automatic weapons and a massive gun buyback which took in 56,250 prohibited firearms. The second tranche of gun reforms, including the creation of a national firearm registry, is stalled in Parliament.

“While the sentencing hearing is still pending, today’s guilty pleas are a significant milestone in respect of one of our darkest days,” Bush said.

“I want to acknowledge the victims, their families and the community of Christchurch – the many lives that were changed forever.  They have inspired all of us to be a kind and more tolerant community,” said Bush…. PACNEWS