Outcry as Bulgaria deports Gulen supporter to Turkey
Bulgaria’s deportation to Turkey of a supporter of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for last month’s failed coup, sparked an outcry in the EU member state on Thursday.
Businessman Abdullah Buyuk, 43, was deported on Wednesday “as a person with invalid documents” after being refused political asylum, Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova told bTV television on Thursday.
This sparked outrage in the news media and on social media, with critics charging that Sofia had bowed to Turkish pressure and had failed to follow proper legal or transparent procedures.
“It is disgusting that the Bulgarian leadership bends in such a humiliating way for the country and for every free citizen,” former justice minister Hristo Ivanov said on Facebook.
The chairman of rights group the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Krasimir Kanev, told AFP that the expulsion was “illegal”.
Bulgarian media have dug around Buyuk’s case for weeks after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said several times that Ankara wants Buyuk transferred back as “a traitor”.
He arrived in Bulgaria in February — long before the coup — and Turkey had already sought his extradition, accusing him of “!links with terrorist organisations and money laundering”.
In March, two Bulgarian courts however refused to send him back, saying he was “sought for political reasons” and that they “lacked guarantees for a fair trial” in Turkey.
Prosecutors told AFP last week however that after the July 15 coup attempt, Turkey asked Bulgaria to reexamine the case. They replied that the request was “procedurally inadmissible”.
But interior ministry deputy chief of staff Georgy Arabadzhiev told journalists on Thursday that Bulgaria had now received from Interpol “new worrying facts and circumstances” about Buyuk, without elaborating.
As a result, the ministry issued on Tuesday an order to expel him immediately, tracked him down and escorted him to the border.
Bulgaria has been extremely careful in its comments on the failed coup in its southeastern neighbour, fearing a mass influx of refugees if Turkey’s deal with Brussels to stop migrants coming to the EU falls apart.
Gulen, 75, strongly denies being behind the failed putsch. His organisation paid for Buyuk’s education and Buyuk told a Bulgarian court that he followed the principles of Gulen’s movement.
“Bulgaria has returned a FETO (Fetullah Terror Organisation) member. We thank Bulgaria and it’s thanks to our cooperation,” Cavusoglu said in a television interview on Thursday.