Extension of Max Zirngast’s pre-trial detention despite insufficient charges?

After three months of pre-trial detention, the Case of Max Zirngast seems to be set in motion in the last few days. His lawyer, Murat Yılmaz informed members of the #FreeMaxZirngast solidarity campaign about the bill of indictment that had been filed by the prosecutor in charge to the court for consideration on November 29. Yesterday, on December 11 – exactly three months after the arrest – the 26th Serious Crime Court in Ankara rejected the indictment. Although the deadline for review would have expired this Friday, the court already decided even before the expiration. According to Yılmaz, the judges gave two reasons for the refusal.

Firstly, the judges pointed to an undue conflation of legal proceedings: In the indictment, the prosecutor did not only involve Max Zirngast and the other three persons detained at the same time on the morning of 11 September. Instead, he had other people included in the indictment who could not be arrested so far. The judges thus rejected the conflation of these defendants with the Zirngast case on the grounds that people on the run could not be brought to court.

The second reason is also related to the collective character of the lawsuit. According to Yılmaz, the judges insisted on a prior checking of whether the allegations against co-defendant Mithatcan Türetken – Zirngast’s cellmate, who was detained at the same time – coincided with a previous indictment against him in Hatay province. If so, Türetken’s trial should be separated from the current proceeding. Türetken and his lawyers had already pointed out at the first interrogations on 20 September 2018 that the current litigation would double the former one. The prosecutor and the custodial judge were already then presented with the indictment of the case in Hatay, in which Türetken stood in court without being detained.

Further details of the contents of the indictment, and in particular of allegations made against Zirngast, are not known. The file is still under lock and key. Only if the court had accepted the indictment, lawyer Yılmaz would have gained access to the file. It is also unknown for how long the trial as well as the pre-trial detention will now continue.

The #FreeMaxZirngast solidarity campaign strongly condemns Max Zirngast’s imprisonment. The current developments emphasize clearly that Max Zirngast is being held in custody in the Ankara / Sincan 2 high-security prison like a convicted person, even though the charges against him are obviously half-baked and not legally justified, or considered inadequate by the examining judges.

In addition, Max Zirngast is still denied any visitors, except family and legal visits. Several visit requests submitted by his friends were declined. Every inmate in Turkey is entitled to three visitors who have to previously undergo a state examination. These circumstances demonstrate once again the fierceness of political arbitrary justice in Turkey: The last petition of his friends was rejected two days ago, on 10 December 2018, without any justification.

These practices are obviously aimed at demoralizing Max Zirngast. How one can hope for a “fair trial” in view of these circumstances remains a mystery to us. We call on the Austrian Federal Government to do everything in its power for the immediate release of Max Zirngast. We also call on civil society to show solidarity with Max Zirngast. Only public and political pressure will force the Turkish regime to release Max Zirngast.

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