Controversy is continuing over Bulgaria’s expulsion to Turkey of Turkish business person Abdullah Büyük, with his lawyers saying that there was no legitimate reason for him to be extradited.
Büyük, alleged by Ankara to be involved in the financing of anti-Erdogan opposition Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gülen, was expelled from Bulgaria by the Interior Ministry for not having valid residence and not having sought to regularise his status.
Critics of the move, including Ombudsman Maya Manolova – whose office is by law meant to be involved in the process of deporting a foreign individual – allege that the Interior Ministry failed to follow the procedures set out in Bulgarian law.
Manolova said that the handover of Büyük without giving him the opportunity to appeal against his deportation was a violation by the Interior Ministry of international law, the Bulgarian constitution and the Refugees Act.
Human rights lawyer Mihail Ekimdzhiev likened the handover procedure by the ministry to a “mafia abduction”.
Büyük, who arrived in Bulgaria in February, was the subject of a failed application by Turkey to have him extradited to face charges including terrorism and money laundering. Bulgaria’s courts found that Turkey had not provided persuasive evidence that Büyük was involved in terrorism or the other criminal charges against him.
However, Bulgaria expelled Büyük after his application for political asylum was rejected, after – according to Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova – the country’s security agency deemed Büyük a threat to national security.
Lawyer Marin Markovski, who along with Dimitar Markovski acted as legal counsel for Büyük, said in a television interview on August 12 that Büyük was not a terrorist and there was no legitimate reason to extradite him.
Markovski said that Büyük was a humanitarian who had been involved in educational work. As to allegations of Büyük being involved in financing the opposition to Erdogan, Markovski said that he had had no money to buy canned food while in custody and this had to be brought to him – let alone claims that he was a millionaire, the lawyer said.
Markovski said that it had been a mistake on the part of Büyük that, after he was refused political asylum, he did not proceed with an application for refugee status, as the law allowed.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, asked in a television interview on August 12 about the case, said that the focus was on just one of 25 000 cases and he had told Buchvarova to investigate the matter. Borissov said that because Büyük’s papers had expired, his extradition was legal.
Borissov denied that the expulsion was the result of a backroom deal with Turkey, to hand over Büyük in return for Turkey continuing to prevent a flood of refugees into Bulgaria.