A suspected Turkish intelligence agent turned whistleblower is being held under arrest in Austria after he handed himself in to authorities claiming he had been ordered to assassinate a prominent politician.
In a clear sign Austrian authorities are taking the claims seriously, the targetted politician has been under police protection since the investigation started and is not allowed to leave her home without a bullet-proof vest.
Lawyers for the arrested man, Feyyaz Öztürk, an Italian citizen of Turkish heritage, will confirm only that he is being held on charges of spying for a foreign state and that he willingly turned himself in to the Austrian authorities. Prosecutors refused to comment on the grounds the investigation is ongoing.
But a police report on his initial interrogation leaked to the Austrian press and seen by the Daily Telegraph reveals details of his claims, that, if proved, would raise serious concerns over how far Turkey is prepared to go to silence its critics under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — and whether it is ready to resort to assassinations on European soil.
In the interrogation, Mr Öztürk claims he was blackmailed by Turkey’s MIT intelligence service into taking part in an operation to assassinate Berivan Aslan, an Austrian regional politician of Kurdish heritage.
“It wasn’t important whether she got hurt or died,” he told Austrian police. The aim, he claimed, was to “spread chaos” and for Ms Aslan and others to “get the message.”