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Christchurch suspect sent money to far-right French group

April 4, 2019

The suspected Christchurch Mosque shooter reportedly sent funds to a far-right French group before sending a "donation" to Austria. The Austrian far right have recently come under scrutiny for their links to the shooter.

Symbolfoto: Generation Identitaire, Frankreich
Image: getty Images/AFP/M. Alexandre

The 28-year-old Australian citizen who allegedly murdered 50 people in two Christchurch mosques last month reportedly sent a total of €2,200 ($2,490) to Génération Identaire, a French far-right anti-migrant movement, in late 2017.

Sources close to the interior affairs committee in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, told Germany's DPA news agency as well as Berlin's taz daily, Düsseldorf's Rheinische Post and Die Zeit newspaper about the payment late Wednesday.

A police official from Germany's investigative Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) had told parliamentarians that the suspect sent Génération Identitaire the sum between September 18 and 25, 2017.

In 2012, some 70 Generation Identitaire members occupied a partly-built mosque in Portiers. In December 2017, four were given suspended prison terms and fined.

Generation Identitaire is a youth group within a larger bloc, Les Identaire,  The movement's spread from France since 2012 saw affiliated groups established in other European countries such as Germany, Austria and Italy.

Sellner denies link to Christchurch

On Monday last week, the head of the Austrian branch of the Identitarian Movement (IBÖ), Martin Sellner, said in a video post that he had received a "disproportionately high donation" of €1,500 in early 2018, but denied having anything to do with the Christchurch massacre suspect.

Austria's BVT domestic intelligence agency searched Sellner's home in Graz last Tuesday.

Suspect visited Austria, Germany's Neuschwanstein

Germany's DPA news agency quoted the BKA officer as telling parliamentarians that the Christchurch suspect briefly visited southern Germany's Neuschwanstein castle on November 30, 2018.

That was evident from credit card transactions showing that he had made a short side trip while visiting Austria, according to the BKA official.

The suspect had also made an earlier transaction on May 9, 2014 from an Australian account to the Belgian bank account of a German in the city of Tübingen for a February 2015 "diving course in the Philippines." 

A committee participant cited by DPA said that recipient of the "diving" payment had been known to police, but not in relation to extremism or a politically motivated crime.

Kurz tells FPÖ to "cut ties" with Identitarians

Last Monday, conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz  in a rare public rebuff of his junior coalition partner — demanded that the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) "cut any existing ties" with the IBÖ Identitarians.

Kurz's remark followed a report by Austria's Oberösterreichische Nachrichten (OÖ) newspaper that a FPÖ-linked university student club in the city of Linz jointly used a villa with a local Identitarian group as a political center.

In October 2016, Herbert Kickl, the FPÖ's general secretary at the time, spoke at an event attended by Identitarians that was entitled "Defenders of Europe."

Since late 2017, Kickl has been Austria's interior minister in the Kurz-Strache coalition cabinet.

"Right-wing extremists are no better than Islamic extremists," Kurz said in his remarks Monday to the OÖ daily.

Österreich Kurz, Strache und Kickl
Kurz, Strache and Kickl in cabinet, January 2018Image: Getty Images/AFP/R. Schlager

Strache: FPÖ has 'nothing to do' with Identitarians

Far-right FPÖ leader and Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache replied Wednesday that "Identitarians have nothing to do with the FPÖ."

"I cannot ban my members from doing that," Strache added, when asked by reporters whether party members were free to take part in Identitarian events.

Kurz on Wednesday reiterated that there must be no links between the FPÖ and the Identitarians.

"We will monitor this very closely," Kurz said, adding that investigations had shown that the suspected Christchurch shooter had visited 60 countries, including 20 EU member nations before the attack.

"There are currently no signs as to whether he had fostered exchanges with far-right extremist forces or whether [these trips] involved normal touristic activities," said Kurz.

Germany's Die Zeit newspaper quoted Kickl as saying the suspect traveled through Austria from November 27 until Dezember 4, 2018, and had also visited Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Estonia.

Austrian Intelligence services wrangle

On Wednesday, Germany's Bild tabloid quoted Kurz as saying that in accordance with his coalition's agenda, his government would implement its obligatory "pro-European" reporting to intelligence services.

Peter Gridling
Austria's BVT intelligence chief Peter GridlingImage: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Neubauer

Bild headlined its article: "Austrian Chancellor Kurz gives top priority to intelligence services."

In March 2018, shortly after the cabinet took office, Interior Minister Kickl (FPÖ) had sought to suspend Peter Gridling, the head of Austria's BVT agency, who had previously served as head of Europol's anti-terror unit in The Hague.

Last November, Gridling was cleared by Austrian authorities of allegations of data deletion.

Last Monday in Vienna, Gridling acknowledged that Austria had only limited access to information normally shared by European intelligence agencies within the so-called "Bern Group."

Veteran Austrian center-left opposition politician Peter Pilz claimed that partner European intelligence services saw Austria as a "security gap" in relation to far-right extremism and Russia.

ipj/amp (dpa, AFP, AP)