Christchurch terror attack: Who is Austrian far-right leader Martin Sellner?

The law enforcement response to the Christchurch mosque attacks went global this week, with Austrian police raiding the home of a far-right leader with apparent financial ties to the alleged killer.

Martin Sellner, head of Identitäre Bewegung Österreichs (IBO) - the Identitarian Movement of Austria - has acknowledged receiving a "disproportionally large" donation from someone with the same name as the suspect in 2018.

"I have nothing to do with this terror attack," Sellner said in a video posted to his YouTube channel. "I have nothing to do with this man, other than that I passively received a donation from him."

The authorities aren't so sure, anti-terrorism police confiscating his computer, phone and credit cards.

It is believed the Christchurch suspect visited Austria last year, as well as other countries in Asia and Europe. It's not clear if he met with members of far-right organisations while there, but the Austrians aren't taking any chances.

Who is Martin Sellner?

Though professing to now be non-violent, as a teenager Sellner admits was a neo-Nazi.

"There was no alternative - there was no right-wing patriotic movement," he told the BBC in 2018. 

Martin Sellner.
Martin Sellner. Photo credit: Getty

After his mentor Gottfried Kussel was jailed for his Nazi activity, Sellner founded the IBO in 2012, following the establishment of similar groups in France and Italy.

They want an end to immigration into Europe and for migrants to be expelled, to put an end to what they call 'the Great Replacement - the belief that there is a coordinated effort to replace white Christian populations in Europe with Middle Eastern and Africans. The alleged Christchurch gunman named his manifesto after the theory.

The IBO and other Identitarian movements are virulently pro-Christian and anti-Islam, but maintain they are strictly non-violent.

Their logo is the Greek symbol lambda, in yellow on a black background. It's supposed to commemorate the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC, in which Green soldiers held off an invading Persian army.

Sellner told the Huffington Post in 2016 he has broken free of his Nazi past, and told CNN he isn't racist.

"We see ourselves as patriots, not neo-Nazis. We don't hate immigrants. But we also don't want to see the country change and end up minorities in our countries. We wanted to express this opinion without anti-Semitism, without the racism of the old right."

Around 150 members of the far-right identitarian movement held a remembrance demonstration at Kahlenberg Vienna, Austria.
Around 150 members of the far-right identitarian movement held a remembrance demonstration at Kahlenberg Vienna, Austria.

In 2017 Sellner led a campaign by Identitarians from across Europe to try and stop boats from rescuing refugees and migrants arriving from Africa. The stunt ended in embarrassment when the group's own ship suffered engine failure, and had to be rescued itself.

That same year Sellner was temporarily banned from carrying weapons after using pepper spray on people he said were attacking him. No one was ever charged with the alleged assault.

Last year, the Identitarian Movement of Austria was investigated by police, suspicious it may have been a criminal gang. Sellner's home was raided in April, and 17 members of the group charged with various crimes. All but two were acquitted, the court ruling IBO was not a criminal organisation.

Around that same time, the IBO received a donation of almost NZ$2500 from someone in New Zealand with the same name as the alleged Christchurch gunman. Sellner said he sent the donor a "thank you".

In March 2018, Sellner, his girlfriend Brittany Pettibone and alt-right YouTube personality Lauren Southern were denied entry into the UK. They posed "a serious threat to the fundamental interests of society and are likely to incite tensions between local communities in the United Kingdom", according to a document uploaded to Twitter by Pettibone, who has spread the false 'Pizzagate' conspiracy theory that accused Hillary Clinton of running an underground child sex ring in the basement of a pizza restaurant.

Later than year Southern made a controversial trip to New Zealand with YouTube personality and white supremacist Stefan Molyneux.

Sellner said on Thursday by linking IBO to terrorism, the alleged gunman will "diminish our ability to engage in peaceful activism".

"This is supposed to make us less successful, which should strengthen militant groups," Sellner wrote on Twitter. "It is exactly what he wanted to achieve."

He said if the gunman actually supported IBO and its goals, he would have made the donation anonymously using Bitcoin.