A mosque hero who chased away the Christchurch shooter has slammed the accused Australian man for smiling in court.
Abdul Aziz, 48, called accused shooter Brenton Tarrant a ‘coward’ for smiling as he pleaded not guilty to shooting dead 51 worshippers at Christchurch District Court on Friday.
Tarrant, 28, denied 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one terrorism offence for his alleged role in the March 15 shootings.
Survivors gasped and cried when Tarrant, originally from Grafton, New South Wales, entered the pleas to all 92 charges via video link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland.
Mr Aziz was later confronted by a man who espoused white supremacist views outside of the court.
Survivors gasped and cried when Tarrant (pictured), originally from Grafton, New South Wales, entered the pleas to all 92 charges via video link from a maximum-security prison in Auckland
Aziz Abdul (pictured) defended the Linwood mosque with an Eftpos machine during the live-streamed shootings. He said it was ‘very hard’ to look at Tarrant
Aziz Abdul defended the Linwood mosque with an Eftpos machine and chased the shooter during the live-streamed massacre.
‘He’s a coward … He was laughing. Just put me, for 15 minutes, with him in one cell and then we’ll see if he can laugh anymore,’ he said outside of court.
‘It was very hard for us even just to look at him.’
Temel Atacocugu, shot nine times during the attack, said he was putting his faith in New Zealand’s legal system.
‘We are strong. He is the loser and we are the winners. He will lose,’ he told reporters.
Dozens of relatives of victims and survivors packed the courtroom, some visibly nervous during the hearing, other in tears as the pleas were entered.
Two further court rooms and some 200 seats were set aside for the public and police maintained a heavy presence through the building.
The court on Friday also found Tarrant was mentally fit to stand trial after earlier requesting routine reports.
The terror charge against him, laid last month, will be the first prosecution of its kind in New Zealand and some legal experts say it could potentially lead to a complex trial.
But Christchurch’s Muslim community has welcomed the decision by prosecutors to treat the shootings as an act of terrorism.
A man (pictured centre) argues with mosque shooting hero Aziz Abdul (pictured right) and his family outside the Christchurch District Court
Police maintained a heavy presence at Christchurch District Court on Friday. A police officer (pictured) stands guard with a rose to pay respect at a funeral for victims on March 21
Tarrant is being held in New Zealand’s only maximum security jail, in Auckland, and prison staff say he has no access to television, radio, newspapers or visitors.
New Zealand’s major media organisations have agreed to self-imposed restrictions on reporting to combat far-right extremist views.
A lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons targeted Muslims attending Friday prayers at two Christchurch mosques on March 15.
The attack killed 51 worshipers and wounded dozens and was was broadcast live on Facebook.
Tarrant’s case will return to court on August 16 and he will stand trial on May 4, 2020.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, pleaded not guilty to 92 charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder. He is pictured in court on March 16 – one day after the alleged shooting
Mourners (pictured) grieved in the days following the March 15 attack. Both mosques are now covered with tributes for victims and families