BY ASSOCIATED PRESS 12:14 PM EDT
(VIENNA) — The Austrian government is considering dissolving a far-right group after it emerged that one of its leading members received a donation in the name of the suspected New Zealand mosque gunman, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Wednesday.
Austrian police on Monday searched the home of the head of the Identitarian Movement of Austria, Martin Sellner, and seized computers and phones after prosecutors discovered that he had received a four-figure sum from a person named Tarrant — the same surname as the suspected Christchurch shooter. Sellner denied involvement in the attack and claimed he had planned to inform authorities about the donation.
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, Austria’s chancellor pledged a full and transparent investigation into any possible connections between the Alpine nation and the New Zealand shooter.
“We can now confirm that there was financial support and therefore a connection from the New Zealand attacker to the Identitarians in Austria,” Kurz said.
“Our position is clear: no matter what kind of extremism it is, whether it’s radical Islamism or far-right fanatics, must have no place in our country and our society,” he added. “We will use the full force of the law against this kind of ideology.”
Kurz said anyone found to have committed crimes would be punished. “Furthermore (we will) examine whether the Identitarians can be dissolved,” he said.
Austrian authorities said last week that the Christchurch shooter visited the country and Kurz said investigators are now trying to determine “whether there further contacts between the New Zealand attacker and Austrian citizens” during his trip.
Australian Brenton Tarrant was arrested within an hour of the March 15 attack, in which 50 Muslims were killed in the southern New Zealand city. He has been charged with murder.
Some of Tarrant’s anti-Muslim views are echoed by the Identitarian Movement.
Austria’s vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, said there would be “no tolerance” for anyone found to have ties to the Christchurch attacker and condemned his “sick ideology.”
Strache’s Freedom Party has itself been linked to the Identitarian Movement and a photo showing him and a prominent member of the group in a pub was the subject of a recent court case in Austria. Strache had sued for defamation, claiming the photo was a fake, before acknowledging it was real and withdrawing the suit.
“We have adopted clear resolutions in the Freedom Party that anybody who is active in the Identitarians can’t hold any function (in the party),” said Strache, adding that he didn’t vet everyone who wanted to take a selfie with him.
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