Additional terror charge laid over Christchurch shooting

A police officer stands guard in front of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Source: AP

An Australian accused of the Christchurch mosque shootings will face an additional count of engaging in a terrorist act when he returns to court on 14 June.

The Australian man accused of shooting dead 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosque attacks was formally charged with terrorism for the first time on Tuesday, New Zealand police said.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, will face an unprecedented count of engaging in a terrorist act when he returns to court on 14 June, police announced on Tuesday afternoon.

"The charge will allege that a terrorist act was carried out in Christchurch," police said in a statement.

In addition to the terror charge, the man also faces 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder over the 15 March attacks.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has characterised the mosque killings a well-planned "terrorist attack" since the self-described white supremacist, allegedly carried them out.

But until now the charges against him were less expansive, as New Zealand's Terrorism Suppression Act was only introduced in 2002 and is untested in the courts.

Police said the decision to lay the terror charge was made after consultations with prosecutors and government legal experts.

A 28-year-old Australian is currently in a high-security prison undergoing tests to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial.

He next court appearance is scheduled for 14 June.

Police said they had met survivors and victims' families on Tuesday to explain the additional charges.

"Police are committed to providing all the support necessary for what will be a challenging and emotional court process to come for the victim’s families and survivors of the attack," they said.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch