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The man accused of killing 51 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has pleaded not guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act.
The plea raises the distinct possibility that the shooter will use the trial, which is scheduled to begin next May, as a chance to further propagate his bigotry in a similar manner as Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik. This in turn will likely bring more pain and heartache to the families of the Christchurch victims.
There were already signs that the trial was bringing other bigots out of the woodwork. As Radio New Zealand first reported, one man was arrested outside the courthouse Friday for making racist remarks and playing Nazi music as one of the survivors walked away from Christchurch High Court. He was subsequently charged with disorderly behavior.
The trial has also raised difficult questions for New Zealand’s media on how best to cover it, especially since High Court Justice Cameron Mander lifted restrictions on publishing photos of the suspect. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the suspect used a televised court appearance to flash a white power sign.
In response, New Zealand’s five major media organizations signed an agreement in late June where they promised not to unnecessarily promote the accused gunman’s ideology during the trial. No white supremacist “imagery, symbols or signals” will be broadcast or published, and statements actively championing white supremacist ideals will also receive very limited coverage.
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