Bulgaria has recently returned to Turkey at least six people who allegedly are related to the network of preacher Fetullah Gülen, considered by Ankara a terrorist organisation.
The return reportedly took place on Saturday (15 October). The Gülenists have reportedly been found in a truck by the Bulgarian border police in Ruse, a city at the border with Romania, where they had attempted to cross.
A total of nine people were caught in Ruse: one Iraqi, one Syrian and seven Turkish. All of them claimed asylum and were told that they will be taken a refugee centre in Sofia.
However, the vehicle took a different direction and went to Harmanli (near the Turkish border). After checking in the refugee centre in Harmanli at midnight, six of the seven Turkish citizens were taken out of the camp and handed over to Turkish authorities. They were reportedly harshly treated. The remaining Turkish citizen was not an alleged Gülenist, and so he was not handed over.
Those six who were returned to Turkey are Dr Yunus Hayri Yildizhan Associate Professor, Soner Özlü, a science teacher, Fethi Altun, a journalist from Cihan news agency and three police commissioners: Uğur Soylu, Abdulkadir Celik and Yunus Demir.
A source claims that a bribe “per head” was paid by Turkey for the return, but the information could not be confirmed.
While the Bulgarian authorities kept silent about the extradition, many details appeared in the Turkish press, including photos of the alleged Gülenists upon their return to Turkey.
A similar extradition of an alleged supporter of Gülen last August has sparked outrage in Bulgaria.
This time, however, the persons extradited were not given the opportunity to seek legal assistance, as the authorities handed them over on the basis of the readmission agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey from 1968, which foresees the return of citizens sought by the law enforcement authorities of the neighbouring country.
The Bulgarian daily Sega writes that 130 people have been returned from Bulgaria to Turkey on the basis of this agreement. It is unclear how many of them are alleged Gülenists or presumed participants in the failed coup of 15 July.