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Why Is Max Zirngast Still in Prison?

It's been three months now since socialist activist and Jacobin contributor Max Zirngast was taken into custody by Turkish police. But a campaign to secure his release is in full swing — including an event tonight in New York City.

#FreeMaxZirngast Solidarity Campaign

Three months. That’s how long our comrade, socialist activist and Jacobin contributor Max Zirngast, has been imprisoned in Turkey. He was taken into custody on September 11 by Turkish anti-terror police, who seized many of his books.

There is still no official indictment. A state prosecutor apparently submitted one to the court on November 29, but yesterday the latter deemed it insufficient. Lawyers have been barred from seeing the details. Two days ago, the authorities also denied a visitation application from Max’s friends without any explanation.

What does all this mean? Is the court indicating that the prosecutor has to be more creative in inventing charges? Did the prosecutor not have sufficient time over ninety days to come up with an indictment that would pass muster? Or are they merely playing a game to extend Max’s pre-trial detention, trying to fool us and wear him down? Is Max such a “terrorist” that his friends don’t even have a right to visit him in prison?

We insist: this is not a judicial but a political case. Journalism is not a crime, and Max did nothing to deserve being locked up in a high-security prison — especially when not even an indictment can be prepared to justify it, let alone a verdict. Max has been criminalized for his political stance against the repressive regime in Turkey and for his activism on behalf of democratic rights in the country.

Meanwhile, the solidarity campaign we’ve launched is in full swing, animated by a true spirit of internationalism. Last month, we were able to place an op-ed by Max in the Washington Post, where he described his incarceration and the climate of authoritarianism under President Erdoğan. Tonight, the Democratic Socialists of America — which previously issued a statement calling for Max’s release — is holding a discussion event at 7 PM in New York.

On Saturday, a solidarity party will take place in Zurich, Switzerland. The next day, there will be a gathering in Vienna, Austria with Max’s friends, authors, a civil judge, and politicians, where both Max’s case and political repression in Turkey more broadly will be discussed.

Finally, next Tuesday, December 18, Max will be awarded the Karl Renner Solidarity Prize in Vienna; Meşale Tolu, another journalist that endured a lengthy stint in a Turkish prison, will deliver remarks on Max’s case.

In the Washington Post, Max ended his op-ed with these words: “I am a socialist and a writer. I have raised my voice for a democratic republic and supported democratic struggles. I stand by everything I have done.”

We stand by him too — and all political prisoners in Turkey.