‘I pray for a miracle’: Frenchman fights to be repatriated from Turkish jail

The Istanbul Prison Court docket sentenced Fabien Azoulay to 16 years and eight months in jail in 2017. His attorneys and kin have been combating ever since to have him repatriated to France. They’ve now determined now to publicise his case to place strain on the French authorities.

“I pray and cry each day for a miracle. I can not think about staying right here for the complete 16 years and eight months,” Azoulay wrote in letters despatched to his household from Giresun jail in northeast Turkey, and seen by FRANCE 24.

Already incarcerated for nearly 4 years for “importing a banned narcotic product”, Azoulay, 43, has requested the French state to repatriate him so he can serve out the remainder of his sentence in his personal nation.

Azoulay, who’s homosexual and Jewish, says he’s being harassed, mistreated and threatened every day.

Carole-Olivia Montenot, considered one of Azoulay’s attorneys, describes feeling a way of impotence as she hears of the horrors skilled by her shopper. “It’s horrible. He’s being intimidated, his fellow inmates are telling him to transform to Islam and to wish 5 instances a day. He’s additionally being harassed due to his sexual orientation,” she informed FRANCE 24.

“His circumstances of detention are an assault on human dignity,” stated Sophie Wiesenfeld, founding father of the think-tank Hexagon Society and president of the Fabien Azoulay Help Committee.

“There are such a lot of of us right here residing in such a small area. To go to the bathroom at night time, we have now to stroll on high of people who find themselves sleeping. When they’re woken up, they get offended and there are fights,” Azoulay wrote in a letter despatched to a relative.

Drug just lately banned in Turkey

When he flew to Turkey almost 4 years in the past, Azoulay by no means imagined that he would find yourself in a Turkish jail. Throughout a visit to Istanbul to get hair implants, he purchased GBL (Gamma-Butyrolactone), an artificial drug fashionable in celebration circles. He paid $300 through a Lithuanian web site and organized to have it delivered to his lodge.

“The product had been banned in Turkey only a few months earlier. However the web site had not up to date the listing of nations that had banned it. Azoulay was due to this fact unaware that this product had been categorised as an unlawful narcotic in Turkey,” Montenot defined.

Turkish customs intercepted the bundle and tracked its path to Azoulay’s lodge room, the place they arrested him.

Based on Montenot, the arrest was adopted by “a succession of small hearings that every lasted about 5 minutes”. Azoulay’s destiny was selected February 27, 2018, on the finish of an “accelerated trial that lasted for about quarter-hour, together with all of the translations”, she stated. The courtroom sentenced the French nationwide to twenty years in jail, later lowered to 16 years and eight months for good behaviour at an enchantment listening to.

Regardless of his enchantment and a authorized petition, Turkish courts confirmed the preliminary verdict. Azoulay’s sentence was finalised in January 2019. 5 months later, his attorneys launched a repatriation request that might permit him to serve his sentence on French soil.

Azoulay was first incarcerated in a jail in Maltepe, a district of Istanbul. He believed it was needed to cover his non secular affiliation and defined in a letter despatched to a good friend that “jihadists try to radicalise different prisoners”. On this overcrowded jail, he stated he was subjected to pressured prayers, bodily violence and even witnessed a homicide.

“One man had his throat slit by a bunch of 4 Syrians. I used to be sleeping when it occurred however the screams of the opposite prisoners woke me up. The sight of blood in every single place was scary, worse than a horror film. I later realized that the prisoner who died had made sexual advances on one of many Syrians and that, within the title of Allah, he needed to pay together with his life due to his homosexuality,” he stated within the letter.

‘Collateral injury’

Though he tried to cover his sexual orientation from different inmates, Azoulay was the sufferer of a homophobic assault in November 2019. “A fellow prisoner knew he was homosexual. In the midst of the night time, he threw boiling water throughout Fabien’s physique, inflicting second-degree burns. Fabien needed to be transferred to hospital,” stated Montenot.

Azoulay’s attorneys reported this to France’s international ministry, which referred to as an emergency assembly. The ministry proposed getting Azoulay transferred to a different jail in Turkey. His authorized staff refused and reiterated their calls for for his repatriation.

Azoulay was however despatched to the jail the place he’s at the moment being held, 800 km from Istanbul. “He’s much more remoted there than he was in Istanbul,” says Wiesenfeld. “His household can not go to him as a result of the world is surrounded by jihadists and it’s harmful.”

Letters and a quick weekly phone dialog together with his brother are the one technique of communication he has together with his household.

The repatriation course of stays at an deadlock. “The request for Fabien Azoulay’s switch, which was made formally in November 2019, has not seen any progress for nearly two years,” his attorneys stated in a press release dated April 8. “We’re conscious that dealings between France and Turkey are strained, however it isn’t acceptable that Fabien Azoulay ought to bear the brunt of this.”

“Fabien is collateral injury of the misunderstandings between France and Turkey,” says Wiesenfeld.

Relations reached new lows in October 2020, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan controversially stated that France’s President Emmanuel Macron wanted to “have a mental check”. France had additionally drawn the wrath of Turkey for its navy involvement within the eastern Mediterranean, an space that’s the topic of Greek-Turkish tensions.

A détente appeared potential after a phone dialog firstly of March between Macron and Erdogan. Nonetheless, a brand new row erupted in France on the finish of March over plans to build a mosque in Strasbourg.

On this tense diplomatic context, his attorneys and the Hexagon Society are struggling of their struggle for Azoulay. “We despatched letters to the international affairs ministry, to the Turkish ambassador to France and to the French ambassador to Turkey. Their replies made us imagine that the ministry want to act however that it can not, that it has to attend for the inexperienced mild from the Élysée presidential palace.”

Contacted by FRANCE 24 on Monday, a diplomatic supply indicated that “the international ministry in Paris and our embassy in Turkey are absolutely mobilised relating to Mr. Azoulay’s state of affairs”.

“Our consular providers are in common contact with Mr. Azoulay in addition to with the Turkish authorities to inquire about his state of affairs and the progress of his request for a switch to France. In Paris, the providers of this ministry are in common contact with the household and attorneys of our compatriot.”

For his or her half, Azoulay’s attorneys despatched a letter to Macron that has to date gone unanswered, Montenot says.

He desires to commit suicide

On Saturday, a assist group for Azoulay launched a petition to alert the general public. By Tuesday morning it had already collected greater than 77,000 signatures, together with these of high-profile French personalities comparable to author and economist Jacques Attali, Paris Deputy Mayor Audrey Pulvar and author Pascal Bruckner.

However Azoulay’s ordeal continues. “His brother is making an attempt to assist Fabien as greatest he can. If he informed him the true extent of the French authorities’s inertia, I don’t assume Fabien would survive,” says Montenot.

“Fabien has informed his household that he won’t make it by this, his fourth yr in jail. He has fallen into a serious melancholy. He’s on treatment and desires to commit suicide. He fears for his life.”

This text was translated from the unique in French.

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