After spending 14 days locked in a Turkish deportation center, Gabriele Del Grande can finally smile again. The Tuscan journalist was freed on Monday. The Turkish authorities alerted him at 10 p.m. Sunday that they had decided to release him the next morning, and, as expected, he was expelled.
He landed at the Bologna airport, where his wife Alexandra D’Onofrio, his family and the Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano were expecting him. ”Mission accomplished,” commented the Minister once the blogger set foot in Italy.
Kisses, hugs and legitimate satisfaction for the positive outcome, even if there are points to be clarified on the events that occurred on April 9 in the Hatay region, when Del Grande was arrested while interviewing Syrian refugees for his book. That is a chapter yet to be written.
“I have not figured out why they stopped me,” the journalist said. He confirmed he was detained by several plainclothes men. He cannot tell whether they were police or military. What is certain is that no violence was used against him. “The greatest difficulty was the loss of my freedom, no one was ever disrespectful to me,” confirmed Del Grande. “I was a victim of institutional violence. I consider what happened to me was illegal.”
The job now passes to the two lawyers who tended to him during his 14-day detention, the Turkish attorney Taner Kilic and his Italian colleague Alessandra Ballerini. The former was able to meet Del Grande on Thursday at the Mugla deportation center, with the Italian consul in Smyrna Luigi Iannuzzi. He had immediately declared that there were no reasons for his detention. Now, they have the task to clarify the reasons for the journalist’s arrest and detention.
During the daily interrogations he underwent, first at the Hatay center, and later in Mugla, the reporter was repeatedly asked questions related to his work. Perhaps the interrogators were motivated by the suspicion that Del Grande could have met alleged terrorists, or simply because he was working without the necessary permits in an area close to the Syrian border. Or, more simply, because in Turkey, for months, journalists are targeted by the regime and more than 150 of them are in prison.
Del Grande reminded the crowd about them on the day of his release. “I fortunately got to go back home, but in Turkey there are journalists in jail in much worse conditions than me,” he said.
In recent days, there was a consuming focus around the case of the Tuscan blogger. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has never broke contact with the Turkish authorities. Alfano referred to rumors about the payment of a ransom for the release of Del Grande as “madness.”
“It was an arrest, not a kidnapping,” the minister said. His firsthand involvement for the release of the journalist was acknowledged. “Even in moments of maximum tension, we have maintained contact with the Turkish government, and we have always valued the things that unite us,” he said.
There is a unanimous satisfaction for the liberation of Del Grande. The president of Amnesty International Italy, Antonio Marchesi, said: “We are happy and relieved. We also hope that his story will help to focus more on the situation of human rights, and especially the violation of the freedom of information in a country where more than 100 journalists are in prison because of their activities.”
The president of the Senate’s Commission on Human Rights, Luigi Manconi, followed the case from the beginning. “Once again, the role of women was critical, or rather of two women: Del Grande’s girlfriend, Alexandra D’Onofrio, and the lawyer Alessandra Ballerini,” he said. “When a possible tragedy manifests itself, we witness the extraordinary ability of women to make their own private grief a great resource for public mobilization. In this case,” Manconi concluded, “we cannot forget the excellent work done by the Foreign Minister.”