The gunman behind New Zealand’s Christchurch mosque shootings sacked his lawyers Monday and opted to represent himself, raising fears he would use a sentencing hearing next month to promote his white-supremacist views.
Australian national Brenton Tarrant will be sentenced on August 24 on 51 murder convictions, 40 of attempted murder and one of terrorism arising from last year’s massacre, the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.
He has pleaded guilty to the charges.
At a pre-sentencing hearing on Monday, High Court judge Cameron Mander allowed Tarrant’s lawyers, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson, to withdraw from proceedings at the request of their client.
However, the judge ordered “standby counsel” to be available next month in case Tarrant — who appeared in the Christchurch court via video link from an Auckland prison — changes his mind.
New Zealand Muslim Association president Ikhlaq Kashkari questioned Tarrant’s motives, saying victims could be re-traumatised if the gunman were allowed to spout far-right rhetoric from the dock.
“My first concern when I read this was ‘Oh my God, what’s this guy up to, is he going to use this as a platform to promote his views and thoughts?’,” he told AFP.
“A lot of people are still going through trauma and this was seen as one of those events that would give them closure. I hope it’s not going to be something that will trigger more pain instead.”
– ‘He wants attention’ –
In March 2019, Tarrant gunned down Muslim worshippers during Friday prayers at two Christchurch mosques, live-streaming the killings as he went.
His victims included children, women and the elderly.
The former gym instructor unexpectedly reversed his not-guilty plea in March this year, removing the need for a lengthy trial.
The terror and murder charges all carry life sentences, setting a minimum non-parole period of 17 years while also giving the judge power to imprison without the possibility of release. New Zealand does not have the death penalty.
Survivors and the families of victims will be present during the three-day sentencing hearing and Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand spokeswoman Anjum Rahman said many would not want to hear from Tarrant.
While she did not want to speculate on Tarrant’s motive for representing himself, she said: “He has shown in the past that he likes to get attention and he wants attention.
“I feel this is all part of that mindset.”
© 2020 AFP
What we know so far about COVID-19 and children
President Donald Trump has been censored on Facebook and Twitter after saying children are "almost immune" from COVID-19. What do the facts say?
We know for sure children are less likely to fall seriously ill from the coronavirus, and emerging evidence suggests they're less likely to be infected too.
What's less clear is how much they spread the virus once infected.
- Children rarely become seriously ill -
Under-18s have accounted for just two percent of hospitalized COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of all deaths in the United States, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Trump’s latest attack on Joe Biden is stunningly delusional — even for him
Few ever accuse President Donald Trump of subtlety. But in a new speech in Cleveland on Thursday, he let loose with a particularly wild rant against his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, that was over-the-top, even for him.
It’s worth just quoting in full:
He’s following the radical left agenda. Take away your guns. Destroy your Second Amendment. No religion! No anything! Hurt the Bible! Hurt God! He’s against God! He’s against guns! He’s against energy, our kind of energy. Uh, I don’t think he’s going to do too well in Ohio.
Many people pointed out that there’s much more evidence that Biden is a committed Christian than there is for Trump. But almost that seems to miss several key points about how wild this is:
Angst-ridden Republicans should have acted when Trump put his reelection above national security concerns: conservative columnist
Writing in the Washington Post this Thursday, columnist Jennifer Rubin says that Senate Republicans are in serious trouble, especially in light of the stimulus bill they rolled out this week.
According to Rubin, the Senate GOP is in dire straits because "they have allowed the anti-government, anti-science Trump sycophants to disclaim any interest in the bill, thereby handing the reins to Democrats."
Rubin writes that some Republicans saying they want to see essential workers being taken care of in the bill are speaking up too late. "If only they they had some power in February to remove the unfit and corrupt president from office, instead of leaving him there to purge witnesses from his administration, seek vengeance on foes, force out inspectors general and botch the response to the coronavirus," Rubin writes.