Christchurch attacks: Austrian far-right activist probed over ties to accused mosque shooter

8:13 am on 27 March 2019

Austrian authorities have searched the home of a prominent far-right activist as part of a probe into his ties to the accused gunman of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Martin Sellner, leader of the right-wing populist Identitarian movement of Austria.

Martin Sellner says he had nothing to do with the Christchurch attacks. Photo: AFP

Head of the Identitarian Movement of Austria, Martin Sellner, said on social media that police searched his apartment on Monday.

They seized electronic devices after Mr Sellner received a "disproportionately high donation" from a person named Tarrant - the same surname as the accused Christchurch shooter.

Austrian Interior Ministry spokesperson Christoph Poelzl confirmed on Tuesday that the country's domestic intelligence agency searched the premises in Vienna at the request of prosecutors in the city of Graz.

A spokesperson for Graz prosecutors Hansjoerg Bacher said prosecutors had stumbled across the donation as part of an existing probe against Mr Sellner into possible financial offences.

He declined to confirm when the donation took place but said it was much higher than other contributions made to Mr Sellner or his Identitarian Movement.

"Most donations were in the area of two to three figures, whereas this donation was in the low four-figure area," Mr Bacher said.

"This made it stand out, and the events in New Zealand put a face to this donation."

Mr Bacher said the investigation against Mr Sellner is based on Austrian anti-terror laws.

"We need to determine whether there is a connection and if so, whether it's criminally significant," he said.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he had spoken with the Minister of Justice Josef Moser about the raid, and all links to the alleged mass killer would be investigated.

"It is important that the independent judiciary, with all necessary means and resources, conducts its investigations together with the security authorities and can lift these networks.

"It needs full education about all extremist machinations."

Far-right leader denies link with New Zealand shootings

Mr Sellner denied having anything to do with the 15 March massacre, in which 50 Muslims were killed in Christchurch.

Australian Brenton Tarrant was arrested within an hour of the mosque shootings and has been charged with murder.

"I had nothing to do with the attack," Mr Sellner said in a video statement posted on YouTube, adding that he would donate the money to a charitable organisation.

He suggested the reason for the donation might have been to provoke repressive measures against "patriots".

Austrian authorities confirmed the alleged Christchurch shooter toured Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria during a European trip in late 2018.

They declined to confirm when or whether he met with any far-right activists during his trip.

Some of the accused gunman's anti-Muslim views are echoed by the Identitarian Movement. The group is close to sections of the nationalist Freedom Party, which is part of the country's coalition government.

- AP