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Family of imprisoned gay man pleads for his release over torture by fellow prisoners

Fabien Azoulay

The family of a French, Jewish, gay man has called on the government of France to intervene over emerging details of his treatment in a Turkish prison.

Fabien Azoulay, 43, is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence in Turkey for attempting to buy the drug GBL. Reports have begun to emerge of his extreme harassment by other inmates for not being a Muslim, and for his homosexuality. At the time of this writing, his family has launched a petition to pressure French President Emmanuel Macron to pressure Turkey for his release.

On April 13, the Turkish ambassador to France reassured the public that Azoulay has been moved to a new prison facility following reports of physical abuse.

“The problem was that he had a fellow inmate who behaved violently toward him,” the ambassador said in a television interview.

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Supporters of Azoulay may not feel reassured. A letter from the inmate, who has been serving his term since 2017, was made public by Azoulay’s family. In it, he details violent attacks against both himself and other prisoners.

“One guy had his throat slit by a group of four Syrians,” Azoulay wrote in a letter, according to The Algemeiner. I was sleeping when it happened but the screams of the other prisoners woke me up. The sight of blood everywhere was frightening, worse than a horror movie. I later learned that the prisoner who died had made sexual advances on one of the Syrians and that, in the name of Allah, he had to pay with his life because of his homosexuality.”

Azoulay reported another incident where a fellow inmate scalded him with boiling hot water, which resulted in second-degree burns and hospitalization. That attack prompted his move to a new prison, though his family is now unable to visit him.

Prior to his arrest, Fabien Azoulay managed a beauty spa in New York. He’d flown to Istanbul for a hair transplant when he ordered GBL online, set to be shipped to his hotel room. Turkish authorities intervened and arrested him for the purchase, as the nation had outlawed GBL six months prior.

April 13, the City Council of Paris passed a resolution calling on Turkey to release Azoulay, labeling his sentence “excessive.” An online petition to have Azoulay transferred to France to serve the remainder of his sentence has also garnered 80,000 signatures at the time of this writing.

For Azoulay, that help can’t come soon enough. “I pray and cry every day for a miracle,” he wrote in a letter to his family. “I can’t imagine staying here for the full 16 years and eight months.”