Austrian man arrested in Afghanistan, accused of spying

Kabul city. File photo

Vienna has confirmed an Austrian man is being held in Afghanistan but the foreign ministry did not give details around his arrest nor did they identify the man.

Associated Press reported the man arrived in Afghanistan in May after he traveled to the country earlier this year.

The Austrian daily Der Standard, which first reported on the case, said the man is a veteran far-right extremist in his 80s and was a co-founder of a minor far-right party that was banned in 1988, the National Democratic Party.

It said that he has been in custody for a few weeks, since shortly after a far-right magazine published an article he wrote titled “Vacation with the Taliban” in which he gave a positive view of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. According to the report, he is accused of spying and Austrian neo-Nazis made his case public via Telegram channels.

According to Der Standard, the Austrian – whom it identified only as Herbert F. – has been a keen traveler to dangerous locations, visiting Afghanistan in the 1980s and, a few years ago, visiting Kurds fighting against the ISIS group in northern Syria.

The Austrian is among a number of foreign nationals being held in custody by the Taliban – including three British men.

Charity medic Kevin Cornwell, 53, and another British national who manages a hotel for aid workers in Kabul have been detained by the Taliban’s secret police since early January.

The third Brit being held is Miles Routledge, 23, who returned to the country after being evacuated by British armed forces less than two years ago during the fall of Kabul after he traveled to Afghanistan for a “holiday” and was caught up in the chaos of the Taliban takeover.

There are also reportedly a number of other foreign nationals being held as Taliban prisoners. Foreign Policy reported in April that “multiple foreign nationals”, including Americans and Europeans, were in prisons in Afghanistan – including American and Polish citizens.