Bulgaria’s Betrayal of Europe

Is Bulgaria really committed to European norms? Krassimir Kanev recounts the troubling case of leading Turkmen dissident Annadurdy Hadjiev, whom Bulgarian authorities are threatening with extradition to Turkmenistan on a trumped-up charge of which he was acquitted four years ago.

When Bulgaria joined the European Union this past January, I believed that my country had finally left its repressive past behind. But the recent arrest and threatened deportation of Annadurdy Hadjiev, a dissident from Turkmenistan who sought refuge here, suggests that some things never change.

If Bulgaria sends this man back to Turkmenistan – where he faces certain torture and the threat of a brutal death – our claim to be part of a democratic, rights-respecting Europe will ring hollow. Moreover, the EU’s image as a defender of human rights around the world will be tarnished by its inability to hold member states to its own standards.

The case evokes memories of the days when the KGB’s influence was pervasive, and dissidents across Eastern Europe and Soviet lands like Turkmenistan lived in fear. Hadjiev and his family fled to Europe in 2001, escaping one of the world’s most repressive regimes: the absolutist dictatorship of the late Saparmurat Niyazov, who fancied himself “Turkmenbashi,” the father of all Turkmen.

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