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

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Vienna (AFP)

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.

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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