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Austria to press charges against Turkish spy

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Austria will prosecute a person who has confessed to spying for Turkey’s intelligence agency, the country’s interior minister said on Tuesday.

The finding surfaced following broad investigations conducted by the Austrian police into violent clashes between Turkish and Kurdish groups in Vienna in June.

One person has confessed to having been “recruited by the Turkish secret service to spy on people with a Turkish migration background and report them to the Turkish authorities,” Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said, adding that the prosecutor would file espionage charges. He did not give any details about the suspect.

“We have a clear message to the Turkish Republic: Turkish espionage and Turkish interference with civil liberties have no place in Austria,” Nehammer told reporters during a news conference.

“There are indicators that the Turkish intelligence service influenced the riots in Vienna-Favoriten. The special commission investigated suspects and personal networks,” said Director-General for Public Safety Franz Ruf.

According to ministry information, 35 people were detained in Turkey between 2018 and 2020 upon entering the country and were approached by secret service officials. They were accused of affiliation with Turkish-Kurdish associations and of having insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Austria has become a target country for Turkish espionage. The Turkish secret service exerts influence on individuals, associations and mosques,” said Integration Minister Susanne Raab. “Erdoğan’s long arm reaches as far as Vienna-Favoriten, and that is poison for integration in Austria. We will not tolerate this influence.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has yet to comment on the findings.

Accusations against the Turkish intelligence service of spying on Erdoğan critics had previously surfaced in several countries, most notably in Germany and Greece.

The fallout from a failed 2016 coup in Turkey prompted an unprecedented rise in asylum applications by Turkish citizens in both countries.

German television channel ZDF aired a documentary in June about espionage activities targeting critics of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and Turkish President Erdoğan.

According to the documentary, almost 8,000 people work for Turkey’s secret service in the country, monitoring dissidents and collecting information on them.

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