Trial of accused Christchurch gunman delayed to avoid Ramadan

Trial of accused Christchurch gunman delayed to avoid Ramadan

FILE PHOTO: Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the d
FILE PHOTO: Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the dock during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand on Mar 16, 2019. (Photo: Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald/Pool via Reuters)

SYDNEY: The trial of a man accused of shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that killed 51 people has been delayed by a month because the original court date coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a judge said on Thursday (Sep 12).

A lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons attacked Muslims attending Friday prayers in Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island on Mar 15, in the country's worst peace-time mass shooting. The attacker broadcast the shooting live on Facebook.

Australian man Brenton Tarrant, 29, a suspected white supremacist, has pleaded not guilty to 92 charges against him including murder and terrorism.

READ: Man accused of New Zealand mosque attacks seeks to move trial from Christchurch

A trial was scheduled to begin on May 4, 2020, but High Court judge Cameron Mander said prosecutors had notified the court that "difficulties have arisen with the trial date because it clashes with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which occurs over the month of May next year".

"A number of the witnesses to be called at trial are of the Islamic faith," Mander added in a statement issued by the court.

Tarrant's defence team had agreed to the delay and the trial would begin on Jun 2, he said.

READ: Accused Christchurch shooter pleads not guilty to all charges in New Zealand court
READ: Christchurch attacker charged with terrorism

New Zealand's Muslim community had criticised the justice system for the time taken to bring the accused man to trial, and for holding it during Ramadan.

Prosecutors have said they expected the trial will take about six weeks, although Mander has said defence lawyers believe it could take longer.

Source: Reuters/ga

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