Suspected Organiser of Istanbul Airport Attack Had Political Asylum in BulgariaSoutheast Europe | July 1, 2016, Friday // 12:50| views
Turkish police block the road after an suicide bomb attack at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, 28 June 2016. At least 10 people were killed in two separate explosions that hit Ataturk Airport. Photo: EPA
Akhmed Chatayev, the suspected organiser of Tuesday's Istanbul Ataturk airport terrorist attack which claimed the lives of at least 44 people and left hundreds other injured, had the status of a political refugee in Bulgaria.
This was stated by his lawyer in Bulgaria, Veselin Georgiev, in an interview for private bTV station on Friday.
Chatayev was released five years ago by the court in Haskovo under the pressure of human rights organisations.
Later, there have been successive lawsuits against him in Sweden, Ukraine and Georgia, but these similarly ended with refusal for his extradition to Russia.
Chatayev is a Chechen separatist who recruited Islamic States (IS) militants.
Also known as the “Single-handed”, he was detained in Bulgaria in 2011 after attempting to cross illegally into Turkey through the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint.
According to Russian prosecutors, Chatayev joined IS and headed a ring for the organisation of terrorist attacks in Europe and Russia.
Part of the group was busted in the beginning of the year, with Russian authorities saying that they had prevented thirty attacks. Chataev himself was not among the detained.
Initially, media reports had identified him as one of the three suicide bombers, who opened fire with automatic rifles before blowing themselves at the arrivals hall of terminal 2 of Ataturk airport, but later this information was not confirmed.
A total of 24 suspects have been detained by Turkish authorities in connection with the attack.
On Friday, eleven suspected foreign IS militants were detained in Istanbul. Another thirteen suspects, among whom four foreigners, were arrested on Thursday.
The three suicide bombers have been identified as being of Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationality.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, but Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday that preliminary information suggested that IS was responsible for the attack.