Turkey says it has “no objections in principle” to repatriating a French man whose relatives say has faced antisemitic and homophobic abuse in his prison cell.
Fabien Azoulay, 43, is four years into a 16-year jail sentence after being convicted of drug trafficking.
Prosecutors said he purchased several litres of the solvent GBL, which is sometimes used as a date rape drug, intending to distribute it in Istanbul.
A Turkish appeals court later rejected his claims that it had been for his personal use and he did not know the substance was illegal in Turkey.
Campaigners in France say Azoulay, who is Jewish, has since been harassed and mistreated in prison in the northeastern city of Giresun, despite his attempts to conceal his faith.
“It’s a disaster. He is being intimidated, his fellow prisoners summon him to convert to Islam and to say five prayers a day. He is also harassed because of his sexual orientation,” one of Azoulay’s lawyers, Carole-Olivia Montenot, told France 24.
She has called on the French government to arrange for Azoulay to serve the remainder of his sentence in France.
A petition to accelerate the repatriation process has received more than 80,000 signatures since it was started three days ago.
In a short statement to the Jewish News, the Turkish Embassy in Paris said: “The claims that this individual is Jewish are unfounded, as his lawyers can also confirm.”
Ali Onaner, the Turkish ambassador in Paris, earlier French broadcaster BFM TV on Monday that his country had “no objection in principle” to a prison transfer, but that it could take up to three years.
“At this point, there is no refusal from Turkey, no reason to think that there would be a difficulty, we just have to let the procedure end.”
Azoulay’s representatives did not respond to Jewish News requests for comment.
GBL was developed a drug to help patients sleep before surgery and has become popular in the club scene — especially gay clubs — for its euphoric effects.
But it can make users experience sleepiness and amnesia, leading to it also being used as a weapon by rapists.
In Britain, Home Secretary Priti Patel said last month that it would be classified as a Class B drug.
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