Suspected New Zealand mosque shooter pleads not guilty

Brenton Tarrant has pleaded not guilty to 51 murder charges. Source AAP

Brenton Tarrant has pleaded not guilty to 51 murder charges. Source AAP

The man approached them after they emerged from court where the accused gunman had made a plea of not guilty on 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder as well as engaging in a terrorist act.

Tarrant appeared by video link from Auckland's Paremoremo Prison, New Zealand's only maximum-security prison, where he is being held in isolation.

The courtroom was filled with 80 survivors and family members of the 51 who were slain, while about another 60 watched the hearing on video in an overflow room at the Christchurch High Court.

Despite Tarrant's visual presence in the courtroom room, his microphone was muted.

New Zealand's High Court Justice Camero Mander said his trial would start on May 4 next year.

Tarrant showed little emotion for the majority of the trial; however, AP reports there was a noticeable smirk from the 28-year-old when his lawyer entered his pleas.

The pleas were met with quiet gasps from the victims and their families, who packed the public gallery in the back of the courtroom.

Aziz, who chased the gunman away from the Linwood Mosque on the day of the terror attack, told the man to go away, but he continued talking to them.

"He's a coward. And behind the cell he's laughing", Aziz said. The prosecution expected the trial would take around six weeks, although Mander said defense lawyers believed it could take considerably longer.

The Australian citizen was arrested on 15 March for his alleged involvement in the shootings at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, both located in Christchurch. "The scale and complexity of this case makes this challenging", Mander said.

The court heard that mental health assessments had found Tarrant was fit to stand trial.

- The man accused of shooting dead 51 Muslim worshippers in the Christchurch mosque attacks pleaded not guilty to multiple murder and terrorism charges on June 14, 2019 and was committed to stand trial next year. "We are not happy", he said. Two more people died later at the Christchurch Hospital.

The shooter livestreamed much of the attack on Facebook.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed to change the country's gun laws just days after the attack. Last month she helped lead a global pledge named the "Christchurch Call", aimed at boosting efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks.