Turkey acquits Austrian student on terror charge

The 30-year-old was also a political science masters student at Middle East Technical University in Ankara at the time of his arrest. — AFP

ANKARA — An Austrian student and journalist charged with membership of a leftist terrorist group in Turkey has been acquitted, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Max Zirngast, who wrote for international publications including a far-left German magazine, was arrested exactly a year ago, accused of links to the outlawed Turkish Communist Party (TKP)/Kivilcim group.

The 30-year-old was also a political science masters student at Middle East Technical University in Ankara at the time of his arrest.

He had defended himself in Turkish at the last hearing in April.

"A verdict was received that Max did not take part in any illegal activity or any activity constituting a crime," his lawyer Murat Yilmaz said.

He said two Turkish citizens, Mithatcan Turetken and Hatice Goz, who were arrested along with Zirngast, were also acquitted.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg welcomed "the right decision" to acquit Zirngast.

Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen also said on Twitter that it was a "good decision", but added "we shouldn't forget that many journalists are still in jail in Turkey".

Zirngast had been free pending the latest hearing on Wednesday but had been barred from leaving Turkey.

He rejected the charges and denied the TKP/Kivilcim group even exists.

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post last year, Zirngast said his arrest was "a perverse confirmation of the authoritarianism I've spent the past several years chronicling and opposing".

He also criticized the attempt to "silence the entire democratic opposition in Ankara".

Zirngast had also published articles on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and is designated a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies. — AFP