Judge Orders Mental Health Tests for Accused Mosque Shooter

A police officer patrols at a cordon near a mosque in central Christchurch New Zealand Friday

According to local media, he is poised to appear in court via video link from the maximum security prison in Auckland, where he is lodged, on Friday.

The gunman broadcasted his attack live on Facebook.

If convicted, Tarrant will be sentenced with life imprisonment without parole, and a confirmation that he is one among the deadliest white-nationalist-inspired mass murderers in recent years.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, had only been formally charged with a single count of murder following the March 15 attack that killed 50 and injured 50 more.

The High Court judge overseeing the appearance ordered Tarrant to undergo a mental assessment to determine whether he was fit to stand trial.

"Whether pleas will be required to be entered on that day will depend on the result of the mental health inquiries and any other developments that may occur over the remand period", the court said.

"I didn't see any emotion on his face", Tofazzal Alam, who survived the attack on the mosque in Linwood, told reporters afterwards.

An accused gunman will face 50 murder charges, and 39 attempted murder charges, in court.

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Tarrant would be represented by two Auckland lawyers, one of them, Shane Tait, said in a statement on his website, which did not include any comments on the case.

But Mander said the mental assessment was "an entirely normal, regular step to be taken at this stage of the process".

During the scheduled court hearing, media photographs won't be allowed and reporting on the proceedings will be severely restricted under New Zealand law.

Media had reported that Tarrant wished to represent himself and legal experts have said he may try to use the hearings as a platform to present his ideology and beliefs.

Stuff understands the court has the ability to mute an audio-visual link if it is deemed necessary.

New Zealand's Department of Corrections said in an email they wouldn't answer questions such as where Tarrant was being held due to operational security reasons.

He also ordered the names of the 39 attempted murder victims to be suppressed, saying identifying them could hinder their recovery, and ruled a summary of the prosecution's allegations would not be made public as it contained sensitive information.

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