A hero of the Christchurch terror attack has confronted a white supremacist outside a court hearing for the Australian man accused of shooting 51 people dead in March.
Abdul Aziz, who saved lives by running at the alleged gunman at the Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15, sat in the Christchurch High Court for Brenton Tarrant’s hearing on Friday.
Inside the courtroom Tarrant pleaded not-guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a single terrorism charge.
But before he took up his position in the public gallery, Mr Aziz – who used an Eftpos machine to defend the mosque on March 15 – confronted a white supremacist group supporter who was standing outside the courthouse.
Abdul Aziz (right), a hero of the Christchurch terror attack, has confronted a white supremacist outside a court hearing for the Australian man accused of shooting 51 people dead in March
Mr Aziz (right), who saved lives by running at alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant at the Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15, confronted the man
After being confronted by Mr Aziz, police stepped in and removed the white supremacist from the area.
After hearing the man supporting white supremacist speech, Mr Aziz confronted the hooded man.
Moments later, police stepped in and led the man away.
The court, packed with the victims’ families and survivors, listened intently as Tarrant pleaded not guilty to a total of 92 charges.
Tarrant appeared in the court via video link from the maximum-security prison where he has been held since March.
Survivors gasped and cried when Tarrant, originally from Grafton, New South Wales, entered his plea.
‘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,’ Mr Aziz said outside of court.
‘It was very hard for us even just to look at him.’
At one point Mr Aziz even played the role of peacemaker as tensions threatened to boil over
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
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
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
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.
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
Mourners (pictured) grieved in the days following the March 15 attack. Both mosques are now covered with tributes for victims and families
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.
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.