UPDATE: Gabriele Del Grande is free, according to Italian Chamber of Deputies President Laura Boldrini.
— laura boldrini (@lauraboldrini) April 24, 2017
Today could be a decisive day for Gabriele Del Grande. Excluding any possible surprises, on Monday the Turkish authorities are expected to communicate to the blogger from Lucca, who was arrested on April 9 while interviewing Syrian refugees near the border with Syria, whether they will press charges or, as we all hope, he will be released, finally allowing him to join his family. At least, this is what Ankara has hinted so far.
However, things can change. It is even possible that Del Grande’s condition of extreme uncertainty will be extended. Beyond what the Turkish law provides for arrested individuals (a maximum of 14 days for either pressing charges or granting freedom), Del Grande was put in custody in an immigration detention center, where — as noted by the chairman of the Senate’s Committee on human rights, Luigi Manconi — a person can be detained for a maximum of six months. This condition leaves all scenarios open, from the worst to the most positive, even the possibility that the journalist can soon return home.
In the meantime, Del Grande has been on a hunger strike for five consecutive days at the Mugla center. He is also refusing to take vitamins and supplements, only ingesting fruit juice. On Friday, he was finally able to meet with the Italian consul in Smyrna, Luigi Iannuzzi, and the lawyer Taner Kilic, president of Amnesty International Turkey, his personal friend. However, the attorney was not allowed to read the journalist’s file to learn about the charges. Beyond the assumptions, the reasons why Del Grande was arrested remain a mystery, although almost two weeks have passed.
“Gabriel asks to be released and go home,” Del Grande’s Italian attorney Alessandra Ballerini said on Saturday. ”To date, we do not know the reasons for the delay of his return to Italy.”
The only certain thing is that the journalist is subjected to daily interrogations during which he is asked questions related to his work. At the same time, there are rumors spreading the hypothesis that during his stay in Turkey, he may have made contact with people suspected of being terrorists. However, they provide not details of where and when these supposed meetings would have occurred.
“We hope that any errors of judgment on his person and his work can be immediately clarified,” Ballerini added. The president of the Chamber of Deputies Laura Boldrini shared this hope, saying the journalist “was not doing anything illegal.”
In the meantime, demonstrations are continuing for a rapid and positive solution to the case. Citizens, associations for human rights, journalists, politicians and institutions protested Saturday in front of the Quirinale Palace and demanded the intervention President Sergio Mattarella.
“Gabriele was arrested while working as a journalist and documentary filmmaker focused on the refugee emergency,” organizers said in a statement. “We appeal to the president knowing that he always has at heart the protection of human rights and press freedom, rights that are trampled on every day in Turkey. Right now, under Erdogan’s regime, there are thousands of imprisoned political opponents.”