New Zealand mosque shooter pleads guilty in surprise move

Tarrant's lawyers Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson in court today

Now that Tarrant has admitted the charges, there will be no trial. In the wake of the killings, New Zealand brought in stricter gun laws. He'd outlined those views in a 74-page manifesto he published online shortly before the attacks.

Brenton Tarrant, who appeared by video link, entered his plea guilty pleas at a special, hastily arranged High Court hearing in Christchurch on Thursday morning, state broadcaster TVNZ reported.

He was due to stand trial in June on 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder, and one count of terrorism.

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The imams of both the mosques attacked were among 17 people allowed to attend Wednesday's hearings due to new restrictions on gatherings in small spaces due to coronavirus. Tarrant faces life imprisonment, with the judge having some discretion in deciding the minimum number of years Tarrant must serve before becoming eligible for parole.

Sentencing will take place at a date yet to be set.

"Police appreciate this news will come as a surprise to the victims and the public, some of whom may have wished to be present in the courtroom", he said in a statement.

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