Christchurch mosque attack: Alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant drops plea to shift venue of trial from city of massacre

Wellington: The man accused of murdering 51 Muslim worshippers in March’s New Zealand mosque attacks on Thursday dropped a bid to move his trial from the city where the massacre occurred. The High Court held a pre-trial hearing in Christchurch to consider an application from alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant to shift the trial venue from the South Island city.

 Christchurch mosque attack: Alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant drops plea to shift venue of trial from city of massacre

File image of police standing guard after mosque attacks, outside Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch. AP

But judge Cameron Mander announced at the beginning of proceedings that the defence had decided not to pursue the application, which was initially lodged in August. No reason was given for the decision. The 28-year-old Australian has pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder, and engaging in a terrorist act. His trial will begin on 2 June next year in Christchurch.

The South Island city was the scene of the worst mass shooting in modern New Zealand history on 15 March, when Tarrant allegedly opened fire at two mosques while live-streaming his actions on social media.

Tarrant, a self-avowed white supremacist, appeared at Thursday’s hearing via audio-visual link from a maximum security jail in Auckland, although media were barred from filming or photographing him.