The suspect in the shooting deaths of 51 worshipers at two Christchurch, New Zealand, mosques has pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism charges in a surprise deal with prosecutors.
Brenton Tarrant, who appeared by video link, entered his plea guilty pleas at a special, hastily arranged High Court hearing in Christchurch on Thursday morning, state broadcaster TVNZ reported. Tarrant, 29, a suspected white supremacist, had previously pleaded not guilty to all charges and had been due to face a trial scheduled to start in June.
The gun attacks on the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre during Friday prayers on March 15, 2019 sent shockwaves around the world.
"An individual who is a New Zealand resident and is convicted of a criminal offence which is committed within 10 years of being granted residence, for which they receive a prison sentence of five years or more, is automatically liable for deportation".
A sentencing date has yet to be set.
But she said there was "a certain sense of relief that the whole nation, but particularly our Muslim community, are being spared from a trial that could have otherwise acted as a platform".
New Zealand announced a nationwide lockdown starting on Thursday, to combat the spread of coronavirus.
"While the sentencing hearing is still pending", he said, "today's guilty pleas are a significant milestone in respect of one of our darkest days".
Ardern said she will still refuse to speak the terrorist's name.
The man responsible for New Zealand's worst mass murder has finally admitted to the killings.
"I am pleased he is feeling guilty".
The defendant's lawyers had indicated only Tuesday that their client wanted to be brought before the court.