Former prosecutor general refutes Der Spiegel report on Turkish citizen case

Abdullah Büyük was returned to his country because of lack of valid ID

Photo: BGNES Sotir Tsatsarov

In relation to an article in Der Spiegel magazine as well as 14 September reports in Bulgarian media outlets such as Dnevnik, Mediapool, Sega and Club Z, the Anti-Corruption Commission for Illegal Asset Forfeiture (ACCIAF) released a statement by ACCIAF chairperson Sotir Tsatsarov, predecessor to the current prosecutor general:

In March 2016 the Sofia City Court (SCC) did not allow the extradition of a Turkish citizen named Abdullah Büyük under a request filed by the competent authorities of the Republic of Turkey. The SCC decision was then upheld by the Sofia Court of Appeals. In this particular proceeding, as per the stipulations of the Extradition and European Arrest Warrant Act, the petitioning country filed its request with the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation, which, following protocol, issued a warrant for apprehending and keeping the individual in custody for up to 72 hours and referred the request to the relevant district prosecutor (in the case of Büyük – Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office). Then came a request for arrest and opening a court case to be heard on two instances with a prosecutor in attendance. This is the protocol for any extradition request, including the one concerning Büyük. Following the coup attempt in the Republic of Turkey, I met with the Turkish ambassador to Bulgaria at the Sofia Court House at his request. During our conversation I maintained steadfastly that another Turkish request for the extradition of Abdullah Büyük with the same arguments would not be acceptable. His proposal for Turkish magistrates to visit Sofia (the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation in particular) to discuss the Büyük case was turned down. Similar meetings with accredited foreign diplomats have been held in relation to many other cases and accordance with the legal power of the Prosecutor’s Office in the field of international legal assistance. In August 2016 Abdullah Büyük was handed over to the Turkish authorities in compliance with a warrant issued by the Ministry of Interior as a compulsory administrative measure on the grounds of the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. On that score, Minister of Interior Rumyana Bachvarova told the media at the time that the reason for turning Büyük in was “lack of valid ID” and the fact that he “entered Bulgaria in early February with invalid ID”. Earlier, the vice-president of the Republic of Bulgaria had denied the Turkish citizen’s asylum request. Neither I, in my capacity as a prosecutor general at the time, nor the Prosecutor’s Office had any involvement in that particular procedure. Handing Büyük over to the Turkish authorities was done under the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act and not via extradition.

The article in Der Spiegel was preceded by an article with an identical content and cited documents in Club Z (entitled Bulgaria and Hunting Down Gülenists, dated 15-16 July and authored by Dimitar Ganev). Without commenting on the purpose of these articles and the way they were covered in the aforementioned Bulgarian media outlets, I can confidently say that I have never committed any wrongdoing. In this particular case, as in similar ones that necessitated official communication with foreign diplomats in Bulgaria, I have acted strictly within the powers vested in the prosecutor general position and in keeping with the Bulgarian national interests.

Ministry of Interior publishes statement on its website addressing the case:

In relation to media reports conveying insinuations of wrongdoings committed by the executive branch of power in the Republic of Bulgaria in carrying out the country’s policy of escorting out of the country individuals residing illegally on its territory, the Ministry of Interior categorically denies having committed such actions. The institution in charge of carrying out the state policy on escorting out of the country individuals residing illegally on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria is the Migration Directorate with the Ministry of Interior.

In 2016, the Migration Directorate executed a total of 68 orders for forcibly taking illegally residing Turkish citizens to the border under the provisions of the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. One of those Turkish citizens was the individual mentioned in the recent media reports, Abdullah Büyük. The Migration Directorate ascertained that as of the moment of its investigation Büyük had not applied for international protection with the State Agency for Refugees and that he had already been denied asylum by the administration of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria. Therefore, the Turkish citizen Abdullah Büyük had been residing illegally in the country and without valid ID. The Migration Directorate was also able to ascertain that back in February 2016 the individual in question entered the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria with invalid ID.

As a result, on the grounds of his professional duties, the head of the Migration Directorate issued an order for the Turkish citizen to be forcibly taken to the border under the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act. The order was carried out on 10 August 2016. The Turkish citizen was informed of the content of the order in his mother tongue and the document was never challenged administratively or in court.

Stepson of Lozan Panov’s wife libels former prosecutor general

The stepson of Elisaveta Panova – wife of Lozan Panov, president of the Supreme Court of Cassation – recently co-authored a libeling article for Der Spiegel, which accuses former prosecutor general Sotir Tsatsarov and incumbent prime minister Boyko Borissov of wrongdoings benefiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Legal World reports.

Dimitar Ganev, whose name is under the article spread by several Bulgarian media outlets that espouse similar editorial policy and have been campaigning against prosecutors general in Bulgaria – from Nikola Filchev to Sotir Tsatsarov and now Ivan Geshev – is the son of Elisaveta’s ex-husband, Ivan Genov, from his first marriage. In other words, Dimitar is the stepson of Elisaveta and a person in her close family circle.

In an article originally published by Der Spiegel and later translated for oligarch Ivo Prokopiev’s news website Dnevnik (editor’s note – where Dimitar Ganev used to be an editor) as well as Mediapool and Club Z, the latter of the indicted Ognyan Donev, Ganev mentions Tsatsarov and Borissov by name, accusing them of unlawfully assisting in handing over a Turkish citizen to the authorities in his motherland shortly after the coup attempt against Erdogan. The authors of the article cite information form “secret messages from the Turkish embassy in Sofia”. The question then arises: how did the stepson of the current wife of the Supreme Court of Cassation president and his fellow journalist Maximilian Popp obtain the secret documents and did Elisaveta’s current husband have anything to do with it?

An intriguing detail in this story is that the Der Spiegel article comes a week after the magazine provided Lozan Panov with a platform thanks to an interview, in which all the questions and answers were intended to serve the ongoing campaign against the government and the prosecutor general in Bulgaria and presented an indirect attack on the European Union institutions. 

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