08 January 2020

In early 2017, investigative journalist Genka Shikerova sought information from the Ministry of Interior on the arrest and extradition of seven Turkish citizens to the Republic of Turkey, which happened on October 15, 2016. Shikerova requested access to the following documents:
1. Copies of the arrest warrants of the seven Turkish citizens;
2. Copies of the orders of the Chief of Border Police Regional Directorate in the town of Ruse for imposition of coercive administrative actions under the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act /forced removal to the border/;
3. Copies of the minutes reflecting their handover to the Turkish authorities.

The journalist was refused access to the information requested. The Head of the Directorate for Legal and Regulatory Affairs in the Ministry of Interior provided access only to the contents of the express transcript of a parliamentary scrutiny on the matter, held on October 28, 2016. On the grounds that the requested documents contained personal data and did not constitute public information, access to the sought information was refused. The applicant appealed.

In the pleadings before the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) on December 16, 2019 for annulment of the refusal as unlawful, attorney Alexander Kashumov - head of AIP's Legal Team - states the following:

"This case has gained serious publicity, precisely because of the suspicion that the executive authorities, which are called upon to implement such measures, did not respect the fundamental rights of these citizens under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Moreover, we all know what happened to those people who have been extradited to a country where human rights are not respected, and I think the refusal of the Ministry of Interior even borders on cynicism under the cover of protecting personal rights. It does not allow society to understand whether the institutions are in compliance with the basic constitutionally established legal acts for the protection of human rights."
By Decision No. 153 of 07/01/2020 in Case No. 13778/2018, the SAC upholds the decision of the ACSG to annul the refusal of the Ministry of Interior on the request for access to public information, submitted by Genka Shikerova.

We expect the Ministry of Interior to give full access to the requested documents as soon as possible.

If you want to know more about the Gulenist case, you can read Balkan Insight's 2018 article Strasbourg Court Quizzes Bulgaria over Gulenist’s Extradition.