Mosque shootings trial delayed to avoid Ramadan

The attacks took place at the Al Noor mosque (pictured) and one in the suburb of Linwood. Photo:...
The attacks took place at the Al Noor mosque (pictured) and one in the suburb of Linwood. Photo: ODT files
The trial of a man accused of shootings at two mosques in Christchurch has been delayed, as the original court date coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a judge says.

A lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons attacked Muslims attending Friday prayers on March 15 this year, in New Zealand's worst peace-time mass shooting.

Fifty-one people were killed and about 40 more injured.

The attacker broadcast the shooting live on Facebook.

Australian man Brenton Tarrant (28), a suspected white supremacist, has pleaded not guilty to 92 charges, including murder and terrorism.

A trial was scheduled to begin on May 4 in 2020, but High Court judge Cameron Mander said 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," Justice Mander said in a statement issued by the court.

The accused's defence team had agreed to the delay and the trial would begin on June 2, the judge said.

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 expected the trial will take about six weeks, although Justice Mander has said defence lawyers believe it could take longer. 

The accused remains in custody, while the case is next due to be called on October 3 when legal arguments to change the trial's venue were expected to be made.