Bulgarian NGOs, columnists and a junior coalition partner in Boyko Borissov’s government have all expressed outrage at the news of the extradition to Turkey of an alleged supporter of Fetullah Gülen, the US-exiled cleric accused by Ankara of masterminding the 15 July coup.
Abdullah Büyük, a Turkish businessman who had sought political asylum in Bulgaria, was discretely extradited to Turkey on 11 August at the border crossing point Kapiatan Andreevo – Kapıkule. The news came first from Turkish sources, and the Bulgarian authorities confirmed the development.
According to the Turkish government, Büyük is a supporter of Gülen and played a role in the foiled coup. The extradition took place despite the fact that two courts – the Sofia City Court and Sofia’s Court of Appeals had refused the extradition, over a lack of guarantees for a fair trial.
Büyük’s expulsion contravenes the constitution as well as Bulgarian and international laws, Bulgaria’s National Ombudsman Maya Manolova said.
Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova said Büyük had been living in Bulgaria using invalid documents and had stayed on after his political asylum request had been turned down.
Bulgaria’s Vice President, Margarita Popova, said that the asylum authorities had been unable to collect data to substantiate that Büyük needed political asylum.
Borissov admitted to NOVA TV on 13 August that Büyük’s extradition was an act “on the edge of the law”, which he justified with the risk of a massive refugee influx coming from Turkey.
Borissov indicated that Bulgaria was extremely vulnerable in the event of a collapse of the EU-Turkey deal to stem the migration flow, if Ankara decided to “flood Europe with refugees”, a threat the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly issued.
Borisov said Bulgaria had returned 25,000 illegal migrants to Turkey since the beginning of the year.
“We are focusing only on one case among 25,000,” Borissov said, referring to the case of Büyük.
“I am very concerned of what may happen to Bulgaria. With Turkey, we need to build the best possible relations. Even if they took their heads, we must not allow the migrant wave to come to Bulgaria,” Borissov said. Later, he corrected himself and pointed out that there is no death penalty in Turkey.
Borissov also indicated that there were many more requests from Ankara for extraditions.
“The signals we have received from Turkey, concern many more citizens,” he said.
The right-wing ‘Reformist Bloc’, the junior partner in Bulgaria’s minority coalition cabinet, has demanded that the interior minister explains to parliament Büyük’s extradition.
“The Reformist Bloc expresses disagreement with the violation of basic principles that guide the coalition; for us these are the rule of law and the Euro-Atlantic orientation of the country,” the political force said in a statement.
Editorialist Svetoslav Terziev wrote in the daily Sega that by extraditing Büyük, Bulgaria has become the first EU country to violate, at Ankara’s request, the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
“It is highly unlikely that Erdoğan would have his hands tied by Borissov, if he wants to flood Austria and Germany with refugees. What is more plausible is that Europe would lose solidarity with Bulgaria over its cowardly behaviour, and would leave it to drown alone,” Terziev wrote.
Bulgaria has turned over two men to Ankara, suspected of participation in a “terrorist group in Turkey”, Sofia-based news outlet BGNES revealed on Sunday (14 August) citing Turkish media reports
Much of the Bulgarian media pointed out that Greece has not bowed to Ankara’s pressure to extradite eight soldiers, who fled to the neighbouring country after the failed coup.
Asked to comment, Commission Spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said that extradition decisions are the competence of the member states’ relevant authorities.
“This means that when there is an extradition request sent to a member state, it is an individual case which is dealt with by the designated competent authority. All member states and Turkey are, however, bound by the European Convention of Human Rights which sets limits to extraditions. The Commission does not have any competence to intervene and will therefore not comment on such cases,” Bertaud said.