“I’m fine. I haven’t been harmed, but I haven’t been able to make a phone call. They seized my phone and my things, though I haven’t been charged with an offense.” Gabriele Del Grande, an Italian journalist detained during a police raid in Turkey, made his first call to the outside on Tuesday. He was in the southeastern province of Hatay on the Syrian border when he was placed in a detention center on April 9.
“Starting tonight, I’m beginning a hunger strike, and I urge everyone to spread the demand that they respect my rights,” he said during the call to his partner and some friends.
The call was, however, granted under strict surveillance. “As I talk, four policemen are looking at me and listening,” he reported. “I was stopped at the border, and after keeping me in the identification and deportation center in Hatay, I was transferred to Mugla and again held in isolation in an identification and deportation center. My papers are in order, but I am not allowed to see a lawyer, nor am I allowed to know when this will end.”
He added: “The reason for my detention is linked to the content of my work. I was immediately interrogated about it. I was only allowed to place this call after days of protest.”
Del Grande, 35, is a reporter and documentary filmmaker, and he’s the founder of an observatory on immigration victims called Fortress Europe. In 2014, along with Antonio Augugliaro and Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry, he created the documentary I’m With the Bride, which tells the true story of five Palestinian and Syrian refugees who landed in Lampedusa and then traveled on to Sweden where they stage a fake marriage. The crowdfunded film was presented at the Venice Film Festival in the Horizons section.
He crowdfunded another project, A Partisan Told Me, a book of interviews with Syrian war refugees. The work has been described as a book “about the war in Syria and the birth of ISIS through an epic web of ordinary people, geopolitics and storytelling.”
On Tuesday, after Del Grande announced his hunger strike, the chairman of the Italian Human Rights Committee Luigi Manconi met behind closed doors for an hour with the Turkish ambassador to Rome. He did not reveal anything about the content of the conversation.
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