Bulgaria Faces Backlash for Deportation Order Against Saudi DissidentPolitics | February 12, 2024, Monday // 10:18| views
Reports emerge from Sofia indicating that Bulgaria intends to deport a Saudi dissident who sought asylum but was rejected, sparking concerns for his safety upon return to the Gulf kingdom. The news, reported by AFP, sheds light on the plight of Abdulrahman Al-Khalidi, who fears persecution in Saudi Arabia if deported.
Al-Khalidi, speaking from his cell in Sofia, revealed that he received the deportation order on February 7, even before his asylum case reached a conclusion. This move has raised alarms among human rights advocates, with Mary Lawlor, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights defenders, deeming his imminent deportation "extremely disturbing" and underscoring Saudi Arabia's reputation as a "dangerous place."
The journey of Abdulrahman Al-Khalidi dates back to 2011 when he participated in demonstrations in eastern Saudi Arabia, predominantly inhabited by the Shiite minority. Fleeing to Turkey in 2013, he eventually found himself in Bulgaria in 2021, seeking refuge within the European Union after his passport expired.
Despite his asylum plea, Bulgarian authorities in 2022 ruled that Al-Khalidi failed to sufficiently prove the risk of prosecution in his homeland. Now, amidst ongoing legal proceedings to appeal this decision, he faces the looming threat of deportation, exacerbating concerns for his safety.
This move is not an isolated incident but rather part of a broader trend of tightening measures against dissent in Saudi Arabia since the ascension of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017. Al-Khalidi's fears are further compounded by the recent extradition of another Saudi dissident from Morocco, where he had sought temporary asylum.
Expressing his apprehensions, Al-Khalidi emphasized the dire consequences awaiting him in Saudi Arabia, including imprisonment, unfair trials, torture, or even execution. "I resorted to the EU, where people have value, and I'm at a dead end, like I'm in Saudi Arabia," lamented the 30-year-old father of two.
Despite inquiries, the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (SANS) remained silent on the matter, leaving Al-Khalidi's fate hanging in the balance. Meanwhile, human rights organizations are racing against time to appeal the deportation order before the Monday deadline, prepared to escalate the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
As the situation unfolds, concerns mount over Bulgaria's compliance with international human rights obligations and the safety of Abdulrahman Al-Khalidi in the face of potential deportation to Saudi Arabia.
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