By Cnaan Liphshiz
Turkish authorities released and repatriated a French-Jewish man who had been serving a 16-year prison sentence in Turkey for buying a small amount of drugs.
Fabien Azoulay, 43, landed in France on Tuesday after four years in prison in Turkey, his lawyers wrote on Twitter.
Azoulay, who came to Istanbul in 2017 for hair implants, went online to order a substance called GBL — a party drug popular in French nightclubs. GBL was legal in Turkey until being outlawed six months before Azoulay purchased it with his credit card. Azoulay claimed he did not know he was breaking Turkish law.
According to LCI radio, Azoulay is being transferred to France as a prisoner, supposedly to carry out the remainder of his sentence there. However, French authorities have no intention of holding him, as his actions do not violate French law.
French President Emmanuel Macron has intervened on Azoulay’s behalf, asking high-ranking Turkish officials to release him, LCI reported.
In April, Azoulay’s family said he was being harassed and repeatedly assaulted in prison, also because he is gay.
Tens of thousands of people signed a petition demanding his release. In April, the City Council of Paris called Azoulay’s sentence “excessive” and passed a resolution calling on Turkey to release him.
In a letter from prison to his friend, Azoulay wrote of his original release date: “I won’t make it till then. I know it. I feel it. I won’t have the strength.”