The Australian terrorist who filmed himself slaughtering 50 worshipers at two mosques in New Zealand has asked to represent himself in court, prompting concerns the trial could become a platform to promote his far-Right ideology.
Brenton Tarrant, a white supremacist who gunned down his victims with a semi-automatic rifle at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, sacked his court-appointed lawyer so he could defend himself.
His former lawyer, Richard Peters, told reporters that the attacker "indicated he does not want a lawyer" and that he "wants to be self-represented in this case."
Mr Peters, who represented Tarrant at a preliminary court hearing, played down speculation that he was mentally unfit to stand trial.
"The way he presented was rational and someone who was not suffering any mental disability. That’s how he appeared. He seemed to understand what was going on," Mr Peters said.
More than 30 people remain in hospital after the shooting, including a four-year-old girl who is in critical condition.
It came as a British security minister warned that the attack, which was widely broadcast on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, could be copied by extremists in the UK.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ben Wallace said: "It absolutely could happen here. That’s why the Government has been concerned about the growing group of people crossing into the extremist mindset on the far-right and the neo-Nazis.
"It is why 18 months ago, we proscribed a neo-Nazi group, National Action."
Mr Wallace added that the Government was putting "lots and lots of resources" into tracking down people involved in far-right activities and into the Prevent programme against radicalisation.
On Monday, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, said she would announce new laws on gun ownership to make it more difficult to obtain semi-automatic weapons, such as those wielded by the attacker.
"Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer," she told a news conference, but did not provide further details.
She has previously expressed support for a ban on semi-automatic weapons. The owner of weapons shop Gun City revealed that Tarrant bought four weapons and ammunition there between December 2017 and March 2018, but said these were not the high-power rifles used in the massacre.
"The MSSA, military-style automatic, reportedly used by the alleged gunman was not purchased from Gun City. Gun City did not sell him an MSSA, only A-category firearms," said David Tipple.
As mourners continued to hold vigils for the victims in Christchurch, Donald Trump, the US president, complained that the media was trying to blame him for the massacre because he had been praised by Tarrant.
"The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. They will have to work very hard to prove that one," he wrote on Twitter. "So Ridiculous!"
Mr Trump was described by Tarrant as a "symbol of renewed white identity" in a manifesto he sent to the New Zealand prime minister’s office minutes before beginning his rampage.