Del Grande meeting with lawyer, consul set up

Reporter, activist arrested in Turkey 10 days ago

20 April, 21:06

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, APRIL 20 - Italian journalist and activist Gabriele Del Grande, arrested in Turkey 10 days ago, will be allowed to see his lawyer and the Italian consul on Friday morning, Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said Thursday.

    "The Turkish authorities have told us on the phone that at nine o'clock tomorrow morning there will be the possibility of a meeting with the Italian consul and Del Grande's lawyer", Alfano told reporters.

    Del Grande's father Massimo thanked the Italian foreign ministry for working to arrange the meeting, by "doing what it can".

    Premier Paolo 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 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, who has been held without charges since being stopped on the Turkey-Syria border on the night of April 9.

    Alfano said he had received the "utmost commitment" from the Turkish government that "procedures will be completed as soon as possible".

    Alfano said he aimed to "make them understand clearly our country's level of concern on this affair".

    A delegation from the Italian consulate in the Turkish city of Izmir on Wednesday travelled to the Turkish administrative detention centre at Mugla, on Turkey's southern Aegean coast, where Del Grande has been held.

    Del Grande's lawyer went there along with the Italian vice consul in Ankara but "Turkish authorities prevented them from seeing him", Lower House human rights committee chair Luigi Manconi told reporters after talking to the lawyer by phone.

    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. (ANSAmed).

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