On August 10, 2016, Bulgaria expelled the 43-year-old Turkish citizen Abdullah Büyük. At the time he was under investigation in Turkey for suspected association with the "terrorist organization" of the self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, or FETO, as the Turkish authorities call it. Thе expulsion happened despite the fact that in March the same year two successive Bulgarian court instances parried Turkey's demand for his extradition. In early August, however, the Turkish Foreign Minister announced to the crowd during a political rally in Ankara: "There is a traitor in Bulgaria who fled there before [the coup attempt]. We will demand that they hand him over to us," as quoted by the Bulgarian public radio BNR.
A very swift due process
It was only after the Turkish media reported that Büyük had been turned over by "agents of the Bulgarian authorities" to Turkey at Kapıkule border crossing, that the Bulgarian Interior Ministry announced that it was "deporting" Büyük on the grounds of "not leaving the country until the expiry of the permitted period of stay".
"I want to firmly declare that there is no agreement between Turkey and Bulgaria [for the extradition of Büyük]", the Deputy Chief Secretary of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, Georgi Arabadzhiev, said at a press briefing. However, he could not explain why the Turkish media had already been notified about the turning over of Büyük at Kapıkule by the Bulgarian authorities.
During the briefing it emerged that the FETO supporter had been expelled in less than a day - a period of time that had hardly given him the opportunity to seek legal aid.
Fear of a refugee exodus
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov appeared on TV but he neither confirmed nor denied whether Bulgarian authorities had been under pressure by Turkey, yet he hinted at a connection between the ongoing migration crisis and the deportation of Büyük. Since the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July, Mr Borrisov has publicly expressed his concerns about a possible mass exodus of refugees from Turkey to Bulgaria.
This is not the only case when Bulgaria unlawfully expels suspected members of the FETO movement to Turkey. In late October, the Bulgarian authorities expelled seven people to Turkey after arresting them while trying to leave the country at the bridge over the Danube near the city of Ruse. These included a teacher, a journalist and civilians who were linked to a protest twitter profile. They were deported within less than 24 hours, while Syrians who were detained together with the seven Turkish citizens only received light sentences and could apply for a refugee status. Under Bulgarian law, such a quick procedure can be invoked only if the person being expelled poses a direct threat to the country's security. Evidence of the latter has not been presented by the authorities yet. What is more, the deported Turkish citizens claimed before Turkish media that they applied for political asylum but their applications were not considered at all, which is a direct violation of the Bulgarian legislation.
* Alexander Terziev is reporter with Capital