The Australian man, Benton Tarrant, accused of killing 51 members of the Christchurch Muslim community in March pleaded not guilty to multiple murder and terrorism charges this Friday.

In an attack broadcasted live on Facebook, the gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles targeted Muslims who were praying in two different mosques in the South Island city on 15 March.

Appearing in Christchurch High Court via audiovisual link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland, Tarrant sat silently as his lawyer, Shane Tait said his client pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Around 80 members of the Christchurch Muslim community attended the court hearing and were aggrieved by the not guilty plea entered by Tait.

This is the first terrorism charge in New Zealand.

The self-proclaimed white supremacist has been charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act.

High Court justice Cameron Mander said the trial would commence on 4 May next year.

“The Court endeavours to bring serious criminal cases to trial within a year of arrest. The scale and complexity of this case makes this challenging,” Mander said.

Tarrant has been remanded in custody until 16 August when a case review hearing is scheduled.

– Aljazeera