US & Canada

Charleston shootings: Dylann Roof 'fit' to stand trial

Dylann Roof is escorted from the Cleveland County Courthouse in Shelby (file photo) Image copyright AP
Image caption Dylann Roof is accused of murdering nine people at the Emanuel Church in Charleston

A white man accused of shooting dead nine black people at a church in Charleston is competent to stand trial, a federal judge in the US state of South Carolina has ruled.

A psychiatric review of 22-year-old Dylann Roof was performed after a request from his defence team.

He is accused of killing the nine parishioners during their Bible study class in June 2015.

A jury selection for a federal trial is due to resume on Monday.

US District Judge Richard Gergel made the ruling after a two-day hearing behind closed doors earlier this week.

He sealed his reasons for finding Dylann Roof competent, saying that information could keep him from having a fair trial.

The suspect faces 33 federal charges including hate crime. He has already been found competent in a state court, where he faces nine counts of murder, and prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty.

Image caption The victims, clockwise from top left: Cynthia Hurd, Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons Sr

The church where the killings took place is a nationally known historic black church, and federal prosecutors claim the killings were racially motivated.

After the shootings, photos emerged online of Dylann Roof holding the Confederate battle flag, sparking a backlash against the emblem, which to many is a symbol of slavery.