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Austrian journalist Max Zirngast detained in Turkey, magazines say

An Austrian journalist was detained by police in the Turkish capital of Ankara early Tuesday, according to s...

Posted: Sep 11, 2018 11:41 PM
Updated: Sep 11, 2018 11:41 PM

An Austrian journalist was detained by police in the Turkish capital of Ankara early Tuesday, according to several magazines to which he has contributed.

Max Zirngast, who has written critically about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was detained along with two Turkish citizens, the Austrian magazine re:volt told CNN via Twitter on Tuesday.

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The Jacobin, another magazine Zirngast has contributed to, described his detainment as "an appalling abridgment of democratic rights."

The Austrian Foreign Minigstry confirmed to CNN that an Austrian citizen had been detained in Ankara on Tuesday morning.

"Our embassy in Ankara is already in contact with the relatives and the Turkish authorities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Thomas Schnoell told CNN. Further details could not be provided due to data protection concerns, Schnoell said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.

Re:volt magazine first reported that Zirngast had been detained via Twitter.

"This morning at 5 o'clock our comrade and author Max Zirngast was arrested in Ankara along with other people by the anti-terror department," the magazine wrote. "Allegation, of course: "Terror!!!" #Turkey is trying to silence all resistant voices. It will not succeed!"

Re:volt magazine said that there was a lack of reliable information regarding the detentions and that lawyers were seeking further details.

Rubina Möhring, president of Reporters Without Borders Austria, said in a statement that the arrest was to be condemned "in the strongest terms." "Different political opinions should not be the basis for arrests or intimidation. But that is happening increasingly in Turkey," she said.

Dozens of journalists, including foreign reporters, have been imprisoned without trial in Turkey on terror charges since the failed coup attempt in 2016, according to multiple reports. Turkey is ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Zirngast has written widely about Turkey for left-wing magazines such as re:volt and Jacobin, often criticizing Erdogan.

Most recently, following Turkey's presidential election in June, Zirngast co-authored an article for Jacobin in which Erdogan was described as "an increasingly despotic leader" and in which the writers claimed that irregularities and media bias meant the election was "illegitimate."

According to his Jacobin profile, Zirngast has also studied philosophy and political science in both Vienna and Ankara.

Ismail Kuepeli, a historian and political scientist in Germany and an acquaintance of Zirngast, told CNN that Zirngast had been spending more time in Ankara in recent years and was aware of the risk of being arrested due to his vocal criticism of the government.

"Max speaks, he writes, he engages in civil society," Kuepeli said. "None of that is terror-related."

A number of foreign and Turkish journalists are currently being held in Turkey on terror-related charges. German journalist Deniz Yucel was arrested in February 2017 and detained for a year before his release.

On the same day Yucel was released, six journalists and other media professionals were sentenced to life in prison for being associated with the movement of US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey accuses of being behind a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The charges against Yucel -- who left Turkey after his release -- still stand, and the state prosecutor is calling for him to be jailed for up to 18 years, Anadolu reported earlier this year.

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