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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 March 2019

Christchurch shooting suspect appears in New Zealand court

The 28-year-old Australian-born suspect appeared to smirk at the media during his appearance

Brenton Tarrant, the main suspect in Friday's attacks, appeared at Christchurch District Court. Mark Mitchell / New Zealand Herald / Reuters
Brenton Tarrant, the main suspect in Friday's attacks, appeared at Christchurch District Court. Mark Mitchell / New Zealand Herald / Reuters

The suspected Christchurch gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant of Dunedin did not request the judiciary withhold his name from the media when he appeared before Judge Paul Kellar in the when he appeared before Judge Paul Kellar in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning on a single charge of murder.

Mr Tarrant, 28, who had tidy short cropped hair, was lead into the courtroom by several officers. Dressed in a white prison robe, he had his hands cuffed in front of him and tethered to a belt around his waist.

Standing between armed police, the former fitness trainer reportedly flashed an upside-down “okay” hand gesture, reportedly a symbol used by white power groups around the world.

He eyed the media bench with something of a smirk and swayed while the judge read the single charge, noting that others would follow.

The death toll from the terror attack Mr Tarrant is accused of was still rising on Saturday afternoon as two Jordanian nationals and a Saudi died of their wounds. At least 49 are dead and dozens of others wounded.

The appearance was brief and Mr Tarrant remained silent throughout.

The courtroom was packed full of local and international media but the judge had ordered that no images depict Mr Tarrant's face. Identity, he said, might be a feature of the impending court case.

The public was barred from the court for reasons of safety, Judge Kellar said.

Mr Tarrant was remanded in custody before a high court hearing on April 5 and he did not request bail.

The suspect is accused of carrying out two deadly shootings at mosques and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says he would certainly have carried out further violence if not apprehended.

Mr Tarrant was arrested in a car, which police said was carrying improvised explosive devices, 36 minutes after they were first called.

"The offender was mobile, there were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack," Ms Ardern told reporters in Christchurch on Saturday.

She went on to praise the two officers who made the dramatic arrest. Footage taken by passing motorists and shared widely online shows the moment Mr Tarrant was stopped by police.

"They were rural community cops I understand from Lincoln [a nearby town] who were present here. Anyone who has seen the footage... they put New Zealand first," Ms Ardern said.

In the footage, an officer – who appeared to only be armed with a handgun – approach the opened passenger door of the car pointing his weapon inside before being joined by a second officer who appeared to be aiming a larger firearm.

The officers can be seen dragging a black-clad figure away from the vehicle, as motorists slowly drove by on the other side of the city carriageway.

Updated: March 16, 2019 04:27 PM

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