Taliban releases Austrian far-right activist

The Taliban released Herbert Fritz, an 84-year-old Austrian and far-right nationalist, on Sunday. Fritz was arrested in Afghanistan last May.

The Austrian government stated that Fritz arrived in Doha earlier that day following the Qatari government’s mediation efforts.

Austria’s Der Standard newspaper reported after his arrest that Fritz had traveled to Afghanistan and depicted life there positively, bolstering anti-immigration arguments that Afghanistan was safe for refugee returns. The Taliban had detained him on suspicion of spying, the newspaper added.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry said it had worked for Fritz’s release since May, thanking Qatar and the European Union representation in Kabul for their assistance in his return.

Fritz, a founding member of the now-banned extreme right National Democratic Party (NDP), was active in extreme-right political circles, according to Der Standard and other media.

The far-right Freedom Party of Austria, leading in polls ahead of this year’s parliamentary elections, had advocated for Fritz’s release, stating he was researching a book in Afghanistan.

“We are grateful to Qatar, His Highness the Emir, His Excellency the Prime Minister, and State Minister Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi for their support in Mr. Fritz’s return to his daughters and grandchildren,” Fritz said.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry thanked the Taliban for cooperating in the Austrian’s release, with special envoy Faisal Al Hanzab stating Qatar’s commitment to mediation and regional peace and stability.

The Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance, which tracks far-right activities, described Fritz as an active extremist.