News ID: 231277
Published: 0400 GMT September 12, 2018

Turkish forces arrest Austrian journalist, activist on terrorism-related charges

Turkish forces arrest Austrian journalist, activist on terrorism-related charges

Turkish security forces have arrested an Austrian journalist and activist, who writes for a far-left website, on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organization.

Online publication Re:volt reported that Max Zirngast, a political science student in his late 20s, was arrested at his apartment in the Turkish capital Ankara on Tuesday morning, and has been held ever since.

Austria called on Turkey on Wednesday to immediately explain why its national had been arrested, Presstv Reported.

“We expect Turkey to immediately explain what the journalist is accused of, and if that is not possible then to immediately release him,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters before a weekly cabinet meeting.

Re:volt has said it believes the allegation of a terrorism-related offence and any such charge against Zirngast would be false.

Kurz's government, a coalition of his conservatives and the anti-immigration Freedom Party, is opposed to Turkey joining the European Union and has called for accession talks to be dropped.

Austria is also fiercely critical of Turkey’s heavy-handed crackdown on suspected followers of a movement led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

During the 2016 botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary. 

Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

Turkey has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.



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