"I pray and cry every day for a miracle to happen. I can't see myself staying here for 16 years and 8 months."

In letters sent to his family from Giresun prison, in northeastern Turkey, and consulted by France 24, Frenchman Fabien Azoulay calls for help.

Imprisoned for almost four years for "importing a narcotic product", he asks the French state to repatriate him in order to serve his sentence in his country.

Homosexual and of Jewish faith, Fabien Azoulay, aged 43, says that he is harassed, mistreated and threatened on a daily basis.

"His conditions of detention are an attack on human dignity," denounces Sophie Wiesenfeld, doctor of law and president of the Support Committee of Fabien Azoulay, contacted by France 24.

Me Carole-Olivia Montenot, one of Fabien Azoulay's lawyers, joined by France 24, helplessly follows the horror experienced by her client.

"It's a disaster. He is being intimidated, his fellow prisoners summon him to convert to Islam and to say five prayers a day. He is also harassed because of his sexual orientation," she says indignantly. .

"There are so many of us. At night, to go to the toilet, you have to trample on those who are sleeping. When they are woken up, they have fits and know how to respond only with violence", writes Fabien Azoulay in a letter sent to a loved one. .

Narcotic drug recently banned in Turkey

When he flew to Turkey almost four years ago, Fabien Azoulay was far from imagining ending up in the hell of Turkish prisons.

During a stay in Istanbul organized to have hair implants fitted, he bought, on a Lithuanian website, for around $ 300 GBL, a synthetic drug that was fashionable in party and gay circles, which he then have it delivered to his hotel.

"This product had been banned by decree a few months earlier in Turkey. However, the website which offers the product for sale had not updated the list of countries which prohibited it. At the time of the order, Fabien Azoulay was therefore unaware that this product had been classified as a narcotic in Turkey ", explains Me Carole-Olivia Montenot.

Turkish customs intercepted the package and followed it to Fabien Azoulay's hotel room, who was arrested in the process.

The French lawyer then reports "a succession of small hearings which each lasted about five minutes".

His fate is fixed on February 27, 2018 at the end of an "expeditious hearing which lasted about fifteen minutes, translation included", according to Me Carole-Olivia Montenot.

Justice condemns the French national to a 20-year prison sentence, which will then be reduced to 16 years and eight months for good conduct at the hearing.

Despite an appeal procedure and a cassation appeal, the Turkish courts do not bend and confirm the first instance decision, without hearing or debate.

Fabien Azoulay's sentence became final in January 2019. Five months later, his lawyers launched a transfer procedure so that he could serve his sentence on French soil.

At that time, he was imprisoned in a prison in Maltepe, a district of Istanbul.

Fabien Azoulay hides his religious affiliation and explains in a letter sent to a friend that "jihadists are trying to radicalize other detainees".

In this overcrowded prison, he says he was subjected to forced prayers, suffered physical violence and even witnessed a murder.

"A guy got his throat slit by a group of four Syrians. I was asleep when it happened but the screams of the inmates woke me up. The sight of blood everywhere was scary, worse than in a horror movie. . I learned later that the detainee who died had made advances to one of the Syrians and that in the name of Allah, he had to pay with his life because of his homosexuality, "he said in this letter.

Collateral victim of the tensions between Paris and Ankara?

Although he tried to conceal his sexual orientation from other inmates, he suffered a homophobic assault in November 2019. "One inmate knew he was gay. In the middle of the night, he threw boiling water on him. body, causing second degree burns. He was transferred to the hospital, "explains Me Carole-Olivia Montenot.

Fabien Azoulay's lawyers alert the Quai d'Orsay, which is organizing an emergency meeting with them.

During this interview, the French ministry proposes a transfer to another prison in Turkey.

The lawyers refuse and support their initial request, in other words repatriation.

Despite the opposition of his lawyers, Fabien Azoulay was finally sent to the prison where he is currently, 800 km from Istanbul.

"There, he is even more isolated than in Istanbul. His family can no longer visit him because the area is surrounded by jihadists and therefore dangerous," says Sophie Wiesenfeld, founder of the Franco-British think tank The Hexagon Society , which works in particular for the defense of human rights.

Letters and a short weekly telephone conversation with his brother are the only means of communication he has with his family today.

Today, the repatriation procedure is still at an impasse.

"The transfer request of Fabien Azoulay regularized in November 2019 has not seen any change for almost two years", we can read in a press release written by his lawyers and dated April 8, 2021.

How to explain this status quo?

For Sophie Wiesenfeld, "Fabien Azoulay is a collateral victim of the disagreement between France and Turkey".

"We do not ignore the reason why relations are strained between France and Turkey but it is not admissible that Fabien Azoulay bears the brunt of it," the statement read.

Even if relations between Paris and Ankara seem to have warmed up at the beginning of March during a telephone interview between Emmanuel Macron and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the tensions are far from being appeased, as the controversy around the controversy around has shown in recent weeks. the construction of a mosque in Strasbourg supported by a federation of Turkish origin.

In October 2020, the Turkish president also declared his doubts about the "mental health" of Emmanuel Macron.

France had also drawn the wrath of Turkey for its military engagement in the eastern Mediterranean, an area which is the subject of Greco-Turkish tensions.

In this tense diplomatic context, lawyers and the think tank The Hexagon Society are scrambling for Fabien Azoulay.

“We sent letters to the Quai d'Orsay, the Turkish ambassador to France and the French ambassador to Turkey. The responses gave us the feeling that the ministry would probably like to act but that it could not, that 'he was waiting for the green light from the Élysée. "

"He wants to kill himself"

Contacted by France 24, a diplomatic source indicates Monday April 12 that "the services of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs in Paris and our embassy in Turkey have fully mobilized on the situation of Mr. Azoulay".

"Our consular services are in regular contact with Mr. Azoulay as well as with the Turkish authorities to inquire about his situation and the progress of his request for transfer to France. In Paris, the services of this ministry are in contact. regular with the family and lawyers of our compatriot ", writes this same source.

For their part, the lawyers sent a letter to Emmanuel Macron, which has remained "unanswered" for the time being, according to Me Carole-Olivia Montenot.

On Saturday, the collective of support for Fabien Azoulay launched a petition to alert public opinion.

Monday at 8 pm, it already collected more than 51,000 signatures, including those of French personalities such as the writer and economist Jacques Attali, the deputy mayor of Paris Audrey Pulvar or the writer Pascal Bruckner.

A number that climbs from hour to hour.

However, at the other end of the continent, Fabien Azoulay's ordeal continues.

"His brother holds him at arm's length. If he tells him about the extent of French inaction, I think Fabien Azoulay will not hold up", regrets Me Carole-Olivia Montenot.

And the lawyer added: "Fabien Azoulay told his relatives that he would not pass his fourth year. He is in total depression. He is on medication. He wants to kill himself. He is afraid for his death. life."

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