Christchurch mosques attacker Officially charged with terrorism

New Zealand police on Tuesday filed a terrorism charge against the man accused of killing 51 people at two Christchurch mosques.

The man accused of killing 51 worshipers at two Christchurch mosques has been charged by New Zealand police with engaging in a “terrorist act,” the first time such a charge has been laid inside the country.

Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant, 28, faces an additional 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder for the March attack which was New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in modern history, New Zealand police said in a statement Tuesday.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. It’s also a test case for New Zealand’s terror law, which was enacted in 2002 following the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.

The New Zealand law defines terrorism as including acts that are carried out to advance an ideological, political, or religious cause with the intention of inducing terror in a civilian population.

Andrew Geddis, a law professor at New Zealand’s Otago University, said that if Tarrant was convicted, the additional terrorism charge wouldn’t result in a heavier punishment. Instead, the charge was about labeling the alleged shooter’s action as terrorism.

His next court hearing has been scheduled for June 14, and the mental health findings could determine whether he is required to enter a plea at that point.