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Austria far-right figure admits e-mails with NZ attack suspect

The leader of an Austrian far-right group has confirmed a media report that he had more extensive contact with the suspect behind deadly mosque attacks in New Zealand than previously admitted.

Austria far-right figure admits e-mails with NZ attack suspect
Austrian far right figure Martin Sellner Photo: AFP
Austrian investigators have been probing the Identitarian Movement Austria (IBOe) after it emerged that its figurehead Martin Sellner received a donation from alleged Christchurch gunman Brenton Tarrant.
 
So far, Sellner — whose group is known for its anti-immigration stunts — had publicly denied having had contact with Tarrant other than sending him a “thank you” email for the 1,500-euro ($1,700) donation received in January 2018.
 
But public broadcaster ORF reported late Tuesday that the men had in fact exchanged several emails, the last one dating back to July 2018, showing that their contact was “longer and more intensive”.
 
In reply to Sellner's “thank you” message, Tarrant said it had only been a small contribution in comparison to the work that Sellner was doing.
 
In a further exchange, Sellner invited Tarrant for a beer or coffee if he was ever in Vienna.
 
Tarrant returned the invitation for New Zealand, adding that sympathisers would also be happy to host him in Australia.
 
Sellner confirmed the authenticity of the emails to ORF but continues to deny he met Tarrant when the latter travelled to Austria.
 
Sellner also says he did not know of the plans for the attack. Austrian investigators are probing whether there was any further contact between the two men.
 
Sellner admitted deleting the messages before a March raid on his home in Vienna, saying on Twitter late Tuesday that he did not want them in his inbox but took screenshots to show the police.
 
The probe has caused a headache for Austria's far-right Freedom Party, which rules the country in a coalition government since 2017 and has had to distance itself from reported links to the IBOe.

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Austria’s Kurz backs Merkel rejection of far right

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Friday said it was "right" for German leader Angela Merkel to rule out working with the far right, even after he did the opposite in his previous government.

Austria's Kurz backs Merkel rejection of far right
Photo: DPA

There are “differences” between Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Austria's FPOe Freedom Party, Kurz told the Munich Security Conference, describing the AfD party as more radical.

“That's why I think the path chosen” by Chancellor Merkel's conservative CDU party “is right and sensible”. “I think it's justified that the party has clearly decided not to cooperate with the AfD.”

Merkel's conservatives have been plunged into crisis after regional CDU lawmakers in Thuringia state went rogue last week and voted in the same camp as the AfD to oust a far-left state premier.

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The vote broke a political taboo in Germany and exposed the struggles of mainstream parties to maintain their firewall against the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant AfD, now one of the country's biggest parties. 

The outrage that followed the Thuringia debacle prompted Merkel's preferred successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, to step down as CDU leader and drop her bid to become the party's chancellor candidate when Merkel bows out in 2021.

Looking ahead to Germany's next general election, Kurz predicted that the centre-right CDU could well end up in a coalition with the surging Greens, similar to his own new conservative-Green government.

The latest surveys put Merkel's conservatives in first place with around 27 percent support, followed by the Greens at around 22 percent.

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