A Bulgarian court refused to extradite a jailed Turkmen opposition activist to his home country on Thursday over fears he might face political persecution, court officials said.
Annadurdy Khajiyev, a senior member of the exiled Watan party, was arrested on Feb. 19 on a warrant from Interpol. Turkmenistan has accused him of misappropriating $20 million.
But the Bulgarian court agreed to release him after holding him for almost two months in the Black Sea city of Varna.
"The court refused to extradite him because he might be persecuted on political grounds if he goes back to Turkmenistan," court spokeswoman Elena Bangieva said.
This is the second time the court has ruled against extraditing Khajiyev. In 2003 the Balkan country arrested him on the same charges but also refused to send him to Turkmenistan for fear he could be persecuted.
Reuters April 13, 2007