Stand up for freedom: Stop the expulsion of political dissident Abdulrahman al-Khalidi to Saudi Arabia


Rumen Radev - President of the Republic of Bulgaria

Nikolai Denkov - Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria

Maria Gabriel - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Atanas Slavov - Minister of Justice

Kalin Stoyanov - Minister of the Interior  

Subject: Urgent appeal to prevent expulsion and for release of Abdulrahman al-Khalidi 

Your Excellencies, 

We are writing to you with great urgency and concern regarding the imminent deportation of Saudi activist Abdulrahman al-Khalidi from Bulgaria to Saudi Arabia. In recent days, we have learned through reports on bTV and a post on that Mr. al-Khalidi is in such danger, despite the serious risks he would face upon his return, including arbitrary detention and other serious violations of his rights.

Abdulrahman al-Khalidi has been seeking asylum in Bulgaria for over two years, fleeing persecution and threats in Saudi Arabia for his peaceful online activities and advocacy for constitutional reform. He has been advocating for democratic reform in Saudi Arabia for years, alone and as part of a network of Saudi activists, some of whom have paid with their lives for their activities and public appearances. His case for international protection is still pending. Despite a final court decision granting his release in January this year, Mr. al-Khalidi was immediately detained in the Temporary Accommodation Center for Foreigners in Busmantsi, Sofia, in flagrant violation of international human rights law and the principles of the rule of law. He has been detained for more than two years pending a final decision on his application for international protection.

The principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in international human rights law, prohibits the return of people to countries where they would face persecution or a serious risk to their life and personal safety. Mr. al-Khalidi's case clearly falls within the scope of this principle, as his return to Saudi Arabia would put him at risk of arbitrary detention, unfair prosecution, and possible torture. He could also lose his life. The expulsion of a Saudi democracy and civil rights activist against the backdrop of the recent wave of executions in Saudi Arabia, where 31 people have been executed this year and at least 172 people, including activists and protesters, have been sentenced to death in 2023, is unacceptable. On February 27, 2024, seven people were executed in that country. This was the highest number of executions of death row prisoners in a single day since March 2022.

Bulgaria's actions in this case raise serious concerns about our obligations and commitments under international, European and national law, including our own Constitution (Article 27(2)), which provides for the granting of asylum to foreigners persecuted for their beliefs or activities in defense of internationally recognized rights and freedoms. Of particular concern is the role of SANS, whose written submissions claim that Abdulrahman al-Khalidi "may pose a threat to national security" - a sweeping statement unsupported by any facts or evidence and apparently without any basis in fact. The expulsion of Abdulrahman al-Khalidi would constitute a violation of Bulgaria's international legal obligations to protect those who seek asylum and protection on our territory for the perfectly legitimate expressions for which Saudi civil activists are being persecuted, including expressing their opinions and participating in assemblies. Furthermore, we believe that it is unacceptable and unlawful to take more than two years of this bright and young man's life by detaining him and subjecting him to a torturous administrative process that has brought him to the brink of despair and turned him into a kind of hostage and bargaining chip.

As concerned citizens, we cannot stand idly by while a man's life, personal safety, and freedom hang in the balance. We urge you to act swiftly and decisively to prevent this unjust deportation, to stop wasting more time on this activist's life, and to ensure that Abdulrahman al-Khalidi receives the asylum and protection he so desperately needs.We appeal to the highest levels of our state: the head of state, the prime minister, and the ministers! Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter! The just outcome of this and similar cases is part of what we want for Bulgaria and its role on the international stage. This is all the more important in the context of a world in which human freedom is increasingly threatened and the space for civil society is progressively shrinking.

With respect and hope,

Genadi Kondarev (citizen)

Victor Lilov (member of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee)

Krasimir Kanev (Chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee)

Valeria Ilareva, Attorney at Law (President of the Foundation for Access to Rights - FAR)

Diana Dimova (Chairperson of Mission Wings Foundation)

Diana Radoslavova , Attorney at Law (Head of Legal Aid Center - Voice in Bulgaria)


Victor Lilov, Genady Condarev    Contact the author of the petition

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