Turkish government arrests 2 more Austrian citizens

Two more Austrian citizens were recently arrested in Turkey and accused of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

According to a report by the Austrian Rundschau news outlet, Kazım B. from Tirol was arrested three weeks ago after he visited İzmir with his family. His wife and children were released, but he has been detained and is awaiting an appearance in court. According to a report by Kurdistan 24, Kazım B. might have shared social media posts about Kurds and criticized Turkish government policies.

Moreover, Austrian citizen Hülya Y., a mother of three, was also arrested in Turkey. Both are accused of disseminating propaganda for the PKK. “We want as Austrians to go on holiday without any fear, and in the worst case scenario we want protection from the Austrian state,” Dener K, who is in contact with the family of Kazım B., told Rundschau.

The Turkish pro-government newspaper Milliyet reported that Kazım B. was a candidate for the HDP in the Turkish general election that took place on June 7, 2015.

Also, Ümit S, a Kurd born in Turkey holding Austrian citizenship, was banned from Turkey for five years for criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Ankara’s Kurdish policy on Facebook in July. He spent a few days in jail before he was deported.

On Tuesday Turkish police had detained Austrian journalist Max Zirngast, who is interested in Kurds, on charges of “terrorism.”

Thomas Schmidinger, a political scientist at the University of Vienna, told Kurdistan 24 that this is not the first case of Austrian citizens facing arrest in Turkey. “There are several cases of Austrians of Turkish background that were arrested, but Max is the first native Austrian. He was super interested in the Kurds and moved to Ankara to study after getting his bachelor’s degree,” Schmidinger explained.

“He was definitely a left-wing activist and writer, and a very nice guy interested in ecology and feminism. He has definitely nothing to do with any armed struggle and just supported pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party [HDP] and wrote critical articles about Turkey,” he said.

According to Schmidinger, it could be related to the fact Austria is trying to take away the dual citizenship of Austrian Turks. Thousands of Turks could lose their Austrian citizenship, Ahval reported in May.

Dual citizenship in Austria is illegal, although there are some exceptions. “I guess it also has to do with the passport conflict that Austria tries to take away the citizenship of Austrian-Turks who regained the Turkish nationality,” he said.

Austria previously closed seven mosques and tried to expel imams paid by Turkey, The New York Times reported in June. Austria also recently expelled imams from Turkey’s Diyanet.

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