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Austrian journalist and activist arrested in Turkey, employer says

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VIENNA (Reuters) – Turkish authorities have arrested an Austrian journalist and activist on suspicion of a terrorism-related offence, the leftwing website where he works said on Tuesday.

Re:volt, which describes itself as a “radical left-wing” online magazine, said Max Zirngast had been arrested at his apartment in the Turkish capital Ankara on Tuesday morning.

“We condemn this arrest in the strongest terms of course and call for his immediate release,” Re:volt said by email, confirming a statement on the arrest from rights group Reporters Without Borders.

“Our writer, who has lived in Turkey for many years, is a passionate leftist activist and author who campaigns for freedom and democracy,” the German-language publication added.

Zirngast is also a student of political science in his late 20s, Re:volt said. It added that it believed the allegation against him was membership of a terrorist organisation.

Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment on the matter. The Austrian Foreign Ministry said an Austrian citizen had been arrested in Ankara on Tuesday but declined to provide further details on data protection grounds.

Ties between Turkey and many European Union countries have been strained by a wave of arrests made as part of a security crackdown by President Tayyip Erdogan following a failed military coup in July 2016.

Foreign journalists have been among those arrested, including German-Turkish reporter Deniz Yucel, who was held for a year on alleged security-related offences and released in February.

Austria has been particularly critical of Turkey’s crackdown. Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who governs in coalition with the far right, has called for Turkey’s EU accession talks to be broken off, though both countries have recently sought to mend relations.

Re:volt’s website features an article by Zirngast and others calling Turkey’s elections in June “illegitimate”. A European rights watchdog said at the time that the opposition had faced unequal conditions, adding that restrictions on media freedom to cover the elections were accentuated by a state of emergency.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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