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Christchurch mosque terror suspect denies murdering 51 people

Suspect Brenton Tarrant pleaded not guilty to the Christchurch attacks on March 15

Suspect Brenton Tarrant pleaded not guilty to the attacks on March 15 (Picture: AFP)

The man accused of storming two Christchurch mosques and gunning down 51 people has pleaded not guilty.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared via videolink on Friday at Christchurch High Court from the maximum security prison in Auckland, New Zealand, where he is currently being held.

The courtroom was filled with 80 survivors and family members, while another 60 watched via video in an overflow room as his lawyer, Shane Tait, entered the not guilty pleas.

This is the first time New Zealand has seen a terrorism charge in the country.

Tarrant has been charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism charge in relation to the March 15 massacre.

On March 15, 42 worshippers were killed at the Al Noor mosque and seven were killed at the Linwood mosque during Friday prayers.

Brenton Tarrant (C), the man charged in relation to the Christchurch massacre, stands in the dock during his appearance at the Christchurch District Court

Tarrant appeared via videolink as around 80 victims watched on (Picture: AFP)

A muslim worshipper prays at a makeshift memorial at the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Rd in Christchurch, New Zealand

It is the first time a terrorism charge has been brought to New Zealand (Picture: AAP)

Two more people later died at the Christchurch Hospital, after the shooter had livestreamed most of the attack on Facebook.

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It is alleged he drove first to the Al Noor mosque and gunned down worshippers at the entrance, before opening fire inside on children, women and men for around five minutes.

He then allegedly drove to the Linwood mosque and continued shooting.

Judge Cameron Mander scheduled a six-week trial to begin on May 4 next year and Tarrant will remain in custody ahead of his next hearing on August 15.

The judge added that two mental health assessments of Tarrant had been carried out, which found he was fit to stand trial and enter pleas.

Judge Mander said: No issue arises regarding the defendants fitness to plead, to instruct counsel, and to stand his trial. A fitness hearing is not required.

An armed policeman stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on March 16

It is alleged he drove to the Al Noor Mosque and gunned down worshippers before heading to Linwood mosque and continuing the attack (Picture: AFP)

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