Del Grande detention 'illegal' lawyer (4)

No charge, a punitive measure

(ANSA) - Istanbul, April 21 - The detention in Turkey of Italian reporter Gabriele Del Grande is illegal because no charges have been pressed and it is therefore a purely punitive measure, his Turkish lawyer Taner Kilic told ANSA Friday. "We have had no news about possible charges against Gabriele. His detention is completely illegal, There is no legal impediment to repatriation, it is a punitive measure," Kilic said after meeting his client with an Italian consular delegation in the detention centre at Mugla. "We asked to see his dossier, but that was denied us. At the moment, the director of the centre does not have any information regarding his possible expulsion".
    Del Grande has been held in isolation for nine days since his arrest on the Syrian border 11 days ago, Kilic told ANSA. "For nine days, since he was moved to Mugla, Gabriele has been held in isolation," Kilic said. "He is on hunger strike...he has said he only wants to be freed and return to Italy".
    It is "premature" to speak of Del Grande's release and return to Italy, his father told reporters Friday. "It's too early to talk about a repatriation in the short term, but we are continuing to hope," said Massimo Del Grande.
    After 11 days of detention without charges in Turkey, Del Grande was finally seen Friday by the Italian consul in Turkey and his lawyer at the administrative detention centre at Mugla. Del Grande is well but on hunger strike, Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said.
    "Gabriele is well, he is doing a hunger strike by just taking in liquids. He has the assistance of a doctor whom I requested and obtained from the Turkish authorities," Alfano said. "The meeting with the consul and his lawyer has already happened. Gabriele has also had an opportunity to meet his lawyer alone," said Alfano. "There must be collaboration between our countries and we trust in his liberation," Premier Paolo Gentiloni said ahead of the meeting. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said "Ankara should respect freedom of the press if it wants to be part of the EU".
    Del Grande's father Massimo on Thursday thanked the Italian foreign ministry for working to arrange the meeting with his layer and the consul, by "doing what it can".
    Gentiloni said he hoped that the "problem" of Del Grande "is swiftly resolved". Speaking at the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Gentiloni said "it is only one example of the fact that we need a commitment to an inclusive process" of the whole Turkish population, "with respect for fundamental rights".
    The EU earlier Thursday said that it was backing Italy in its bid to get Del Grande released as soon as possible. "The EU acted to support the action of the Italian ambassador in Ankara, to support the action of the foreign ministry and the Italian government towards the Turkish authorities," Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini said, saying "we co-ordinated with Italy from the start". Meanwhile Del Grande's partner Alexandra D'Onofrio told La Repubblica newspaper that he had been arrested "just because he speaks with refugees". She said "he goes with a backpack on his back and chats, he spends hours speaking with people in their language, he doesn't go looking for scoops but for things that will make us think." Italy was also offered help by the German foreign ministry, which has a reporter of its own held in Turkey since February, Deniz Yucel.
    Alfano on Wednesday phoned his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to "reiterate our firm request for the immediate release" of Del Grande.
    Alfano said he had received the "utmost commitment" from the Turkish government that "procedures will be completed as soon as possible".
    Del Grande, 34, phoned Italy Tuesday to say he was well but that he would start a hunger strike to demand his rights be respected.
    "I'm well, they haven't touched a hair on my head but I can't phone, they seized my cellphone and belongings, although they're not charging me with anything," said Del Grande using the administrative detention centre's landline, saying he was surrounded by four policemen.
    Human rights campaigner Del Grande said he would start a hunger strike that evening "and I urge everyone to mobilise to demand my rights be respected".
    He said "my documents are in order, but I have not been allowed to name a lawyer, nor have I been informed when this detention will end.
    "The reason for the arrest is linked to the content of my work. I have been subjected to questioning in this regard. I have been able to phone only after days of protests".
    Lucca-born Del Grande, a blogger and human rights activist, was arrested in Hatay Province near the Syria-Turkey border.
    Del Grande is also a documentary maker who has raised awareness on migrant issues.