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Suspect in New Zealand mosque shootings had financial ties to far-right movement in Austria

Posted: 10:02 AM, Mar 27, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-27 11:02:44-04
Suspect in New Zealand mosque shootings had financial ties to far-right movement in Austria

The gunman accused of carrying out Christchurch's deadly attacks had financial links to Austria's far-right movement, officials said Wednesday as Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was looking into dissolving the nationalist group.

The alleged attacker, Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, donated around 1,500 euros ($1,690) to the private bank account of Martin Sellner, head of Austria's Identitarian Movement, a spokesman from the Graz prosecutor's office told CNN.

The suspect, 28, has been charged with killing 50 people in mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques earlier this month. He is due to appear in court on April 5.

Police searched Sellner's Vienna home on Monday on the suspicion of tax evasion, the prosecutor's spokesman said. Sellner was questioned and released without charge.

Sellner confirmed in a YouTube video that he had received a donation from the Christchurch attacker and that police had raided his home.

But he added, "I'm not a member of a terrorist organization. I have nothing to do with this man, other than that I passively received a donation from him."

In a press conference Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Kurz called for an investigation into the alleged links between the gunman and Sellner.

Kurz also said his government was exploring whether to dissolve the far-right Identitarian Movement. "There must be no tolerance for dangerous ideologies in our country -- no matter if it's radical Islam or right-wing fanaticism," he added.

Austria's Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), said his party had nothing to do with the Identitarian Movement, Reuters reported. The FPO is part of the governing coalition with Kurz's Austrian People's Party.

Prosecutors are now looking into possible criminal ties between the suspect and Sellner, 30, who with his sharp haircut and black-rimmed glasses has been described as the "poster boy" for the Europe-wide Identitarian movement, which is opposed to Muslim migrants.

In 2018 Sellner stood trial for membership of a criminal organization and hate speech, but was acquitted without charge.

The same year Sellner was also one of three far-right activists banned from entering the United Kingdom for a speech in London's Hyde Park.

In a letter sent to the group, the Home Office said the activists planned to meet British far-right activist Tommy Robinson and were likely to incite "tensions between local communities in the United Kingdom."

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