The man accused of murdering dozens of people in two New Zealand mosques has pleaded not guilty to 92 charges.

Brenton Tarrant, an Australian, is accused killing 51 people – Muslims attending Friday prayers – in the city of Christchurch on 15 March.

He allegedly opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon and broadcast the killings on Facebook.

The 29-year-old, who is a suspected white supremacist, appeared in the Christchurch court by video link from the maximum security Paremoremo Prison in the northern city of Auckland.

The accused gunman faces 51 murder charges and 40 attempted murder charges, along with a terrorism charge.

He said nothing during proceedings and the not guilty pleas were entered by his lawyer Shane Tait on his behalf.

According to the New Zealand Herald, the bereaved in the public gallery gasped when the pleas were entered and Tarrant gave a small smile.

The court, packed with 80 members of Christchurch’s Muslim community and dozens of reporters, heard that Tarrant had been assessed as mentally fit to stand trial.

High Court Justice Cameron Mander said: No issue arises regarding the defendant’s fitness to plead, to instruct counsel, and to stand his trial.

The trial will begin on 4 May and prosecutors estimate it could last for six weeks, although the judge said it could be considerably longer, adding that the scale and complexity of this case makes this challenging.

His next court appearance will be a case review hearing on 15 August and he will remain in custody until then.

Last week the court lifted an order banning the publication of photos of Tarrant.

An interim suppression order regarding the publication of survivors’ names lapsed and will not be reinstated.

(c) Sky News 2019: NZ mosque shootings accused shocks public gallery with pleas