The High Court of New Zealand has delayed the trial of a man accused of the killing of 51 people in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch to avoid an overlap with the holy month of Ramadan.
Brenton Tarrant, 29, who has been described by Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”, faces 92 charges, including murder and terrorism, after opening fire at the two mosques while livestreaming his actions on social media.
The trial was scheduled to begin on May 4, 2020, but judge Cameron Mander said on Thursday that prosecutors had notified the court that “difficulties have arisen with the trial date because it clashes with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which occurs over the month of May next year”.
“A number of the witnesses to be called at trial are of the Islamic faith,” Mander added in a statement issued by the court.
It said a new start date of June 2, 2020, has been confirmed for the trial after the defence raised no objection to the change.
The court is scheduled to hold a brief hearing on October 3, when it is expected to make a decision on a request by the defence team to move the trial away from Christchurch.
New Zealand’s Muslim community had criticised the justice system for the time taken to bring the accused to trial, and for holding it during Ramadan.
Prosecutors have said they expect the trial to take about six weeks, although Mander has said defence lawyers believe it could take longer.