By cooperating with Turkmen authorities to arrest an opposition politician, Bulgaria has effectively given backing to Turkmenistan’s repressive policies, say human rights activists.
Annadurdy Hadjiev, a senior member of the exiled Turkmen opposition Watan party, was arrested by Bulgarian police in Varna on February 19.
The arrest warrant was issued by Bulgaria’s supreme prosecutor’s office, following a request by the Turkmen authorities via Interpol.
Hadjiev, who has dual Russian and Turkmen citizenship, has lived in Bulgaria since 2001 and acquired refugee status in 2003.
Bulgarian police previously arrested Hadjiev at the request of Turkmen authorities in 2002, when he was accused of trying to appropriate 40 million US dollars through illegal bank transfers from state accounts in Turkmenistan.
He was released after a month, when Varna court ruled that “those requesting Hadjiev’s extradition intended to persecute and punish him for his political belief”.
Hadjiev was deputy head of Turkmenistan’s Central Bank until 1998 when he resigned “to express his discontent with Niazov’s policy” and left the country.
Afterwards, authorities in Turkmenistan began targeting his 19 relatives, including his brother Sapardurdy Hadjiev who received a long prison sentence last August for his human rights activities, and his sister Ogulsapar Muradova, a Radio Liberty journalist who died after being tortured in prison last September.
Tajigul Begmedova, who heads the Turkmen Helsinki Fund, an émigré group based in Bulgaria, told NBCentralAsia that Hadjiev had been arrested illegally without the right to a lawyer or interpreter.
The arrest warrant was first issued a long time ago, the charges were unclear, and policemen interrogated him “in an aggressive and rude manner”, demanding that “he tell them about the activities of Turkmen opposition politicians”, says Begmedova.
Hadjiev is currently on hunger strike in protest against his arrest and Begmedova is bitterly disappointed with the European Union.
“Hadjiev’s arrest shows that EU member states support Turkmenistan’s repressive actions toward Turkmen dissidents,” she said
Acacia Shields, a human rights consultant, agrees and points out that nothing seems to be changing under Turkmenistan’s new president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.
“It’s a sign that Turkmenistan’s new authorities continue to violate human rights and carry out the plans set by Niazov’s government,” she said.
(News Briefing Central Asia draws comment and analysis from a broad range of political observers across the region.)