A gay Frenchman is seeking repatriation from a Turkish prison in a terrifying story that mirrors the cult 1970’s film “Midnight Express.”
Fabien Azoulay is serving a 16-year sentence on drug charges. Azoulay, 43, was convicted by an Istanbul criminal court for purchasing the illegal narcotic GBL (Gamma-Butyrolactone).
"His conditions of detention are an attack on human dignity" Sophie Wiesenfeld, founder of the think-tank Hexagon Society and president of the Fabien Azoulay Support Committee, told France 24.
Azoulay has been incarcerated for nearly four years. In letters, he reveals harassment and intimidation including being scalded with boiling hot water after another inmate found out he is gay. Azoulay, who is Jewish, also writes of pressure from Muslim inmates to convert to Islam.
“I pray and cry every day for a miracle,” Azoulay wrote in a letter to his family from prison in Giresun, Turkey.
Numerous human rights groups are calling on French President Emmanuel Macron to negotiate Azoulay’s transfer. However, Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have a strained relationship with Erdogan saying in October 2020 that Macron needed to have a “mental check.”
A petition asking for Macron’s intervention has already gathered more than 100,000 signatures on Change.org France.
Azoulay said he was not aware GBL was illegal in Turkey when he purchased the drug on a Lithuanian website and paid $300 to have it delivered to his hotel room. Turkish customs intercepted the package and arrested Azoulay instead. He was charged with importing a banned narcotic.
Jean-Luc Romero-Michel, deputy mayor of Paris, called Azouley’s situation alarming and pushed a resolution through the city government demanding his return to France.
“No detainee should be subjected to abuse, threats of ill-treatment and rape,” Romero-Michel tweeted.