Christchurch terror attack: Suspect linked to another far-right group in Europe

The alleged Christchurch gunman sent $3654 to a French far-right group, according to local reports.

German police investigating the suspect's travels through Europe prior to the March 15 attack say he sent money to the French chapter of Generation Identity, a far-right group that wants to expel immigrants from the continent.

German news agency dpa reported the amount, sent in September 2017, was $3654.

Last week, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the 28-year-old suspect sent its local chapter, the Identitäre Bewegung Österreichs, about $2500 in early 2018.

The Identity movement in Europe subscribes to a conspiracy theory called the 'Great Replacement', which holds that white Christians are being systematically replaced with immigrants of other races and religions. The Christchurch suspect's manifesto, uploaded to the internet minutes before the attack, was named after the theory. The document is now illegal to possess in New Zealand without permission from the Chief Censor.

The groups, which have spread across the continent in recent years, insist they're non-violent - even if some are led by self-admitted former neo-Nazis, like Martin Sellner in Austria.

The suspect in the attack appeared in court for a second time on Friday, charged with 50 murders and 39 attempted murders. Notably absent at this stage is a charge of terrorism.

"A lot of people want him to be charged with terrorism, but ultimately this is an academic debate," University of Waikato international law expert Alexander Gillespie told Magic Talk on Friday.

"The main thing is not that you put him into the correct academic box, but you put him in a concrete box - for life."

Alexander Gillespie.
Alexander Gillespie. Photo credit: Newshub.

Dr Gillespie fears if the Crown pursues a terrorism charge, it will give the suspect a platform for his abhorrent views.

"If you charge him with terrorism, you've got to prove intent, and it's a much more complicated legal charge. Murder is simple. The Crown's familiar with how to pursue a murder charge.

"If you charge him with terrorism, you're going to give him a platform because you're gonna have to say, 'Why did you do it?' And he gets an open court. That's the last thing you want to do. You take that away from him, and you're winning."

He says 50 charges of murder is "more than enough" to see the accused, if found guilty, locked away forever.

AUT law professor Kris Gledhill told Newshub earlier on Friday there would be little point to a terrorism charge.

"A terrorism charge would add to the length of the trial without necessarily adding anything to the sentencing powers that would be available to the judge."

But Massey University law professor Chris Gallivan said a precedent has to be set.

"It's not for the Crown to construct their case in order to be able to minimise any public impact," he told The AM Show on Friday.

"Let the court actually deal with the issue of suppression, the fallout, the chance of grandstanding... the Crown just looks at the facts of what happened, and charge accordingly and appropriate. I believe terrorism charges are something they will be seriously considering, and they should charge him."

Chris Gallivan.
Chris Gallivan. Photo credit: The AM Show

He'll next appear in court on June 14, following a mental health assessment.

"I expect he's completely sane," said Gillespie. "You're going to see effectively a very normal person who just has evil in his heart."