Italian writer Gabriele Del Grande has been detained in solitary confinement in Turkey for 12 days. After intense pressure from the Italian government, Turkish authorities allowed Gabriele to meet today with the Italian consul and a Turkish lawyer. But the lawyer told Human Rights Watch that they were denied permission to see Gabriele’s administrative file and that there was no clear indication of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Under Turkish law, this prolonged administrative detention appears to be arbitrary, and the lawyer applied this afternoon to a court for Gabriele’s release. Gabriele was only allowed a phone call after a week in detention.
Like so many others, I know Gabriele because of his thoughtful and courageous art and activism on behalf of migrants. Long before the issue became headline news, Gabriele founded a blog, Fortress Europe, to track and pay homage to migrants dying at Europe’s borders. When we spoke together on a panel years ago, I droned on about international law and state obligations, but Gabriele spoke of the bravery of people on the move and read their poetry.
Gabriele co-authored and co-directed the documentary Io sto con la sposa (On the Bride’s Side), which tells the improbable story of a group of Syrian refugees pretending to be a wedding party as they travel irregularly from Italy to Sweden.
He was arrested on April 9 in Hatay province, near the border with Syria, where he was interviewing Syrian refugees for a book he’s writing about the war and the rise of ISIS. He is now being held in an administrative detention center in Mugla, on the Aegean Sea. But while Turkish authorities have said he will be expelled, it is deeply troubling that his detention is dragging on and his basic rights are not being respected. Gabriele began a hunger strike earlier this week.
Gabriele’s detention takes place in a highly repressive climate and crackdown on media freedom under Turkey’s state of emergency. About 150 journalists and media workers from Turkey are in jail, most of them facing politically motivated charges under terrorism laws.
Turkish authorities should clarify Gabriele’s situation and ensure all his rights are respected. Most importantly, they should release him so he can get back to doing what he does best: telling good, important stories.