Toma Nikolaev is a well-known activist for Roma rights and a former candidate MP. Persecuted in Bulgaria due to his criticism of the apartheid that excludes most of Bulgaria’s 700,000 Roma, he was directing editor of the bilingual newspaper DeFacto until its closure.
Fearing for his life after a bomb was placed near his home, Mr. Nikolaev sought asylum in the UK. A long, uncompleted process followed, during which Nikolaev continued to help fellow Roma. He joined the campaign to save the Dale Farm community, which was broken up by the riot police assault on the estate on 19 October 2011.
On April 8, 2012 Toma Nikolaev attended a sit-in front of the Bulgarian Embassy in London to mark Roma Nation Day. Shortly after he was arrested under European warrant and spent three days in custody before being released on bail. He is scheduled to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court at 9:30am on 22nd May.
This is the first time a prominent Roma political activist has been brought before this court, which is reserved for extradition and terrorism cases.
Mr. Nikolaev faces extradition back to Bulgaria, where he would have to continue a prison sentence imposed for his criticism of the government .
The Roma in Bulgaria make up 8% of the population, live mostly in segregated neighborhood and are suffering 70% unemployment. In this condition of social exclusion, Roma activists are subject to judicial and police persecution, as well as violence from nationalist and racist movements, in particular the Atak Party. That is why we believe it is unsafe for Mr Nikoleav, his wife and children, to return to Bulgaria and appeal to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to dismiss the extradition proceedings brought by the Bulgarian state and allow Toma Nikolaev to remain in the UK, where he wishes to apply for political asylum.
Our appeal is also addressed to Queen Elizabeth II, and the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom. We are asking them to intervene in the case of Toma Nikolaev, thus offering the European Union and the world an example of civility and respect for human rights. We also urge the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres; the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay; the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks; the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and all civil society not to remain indifferent to a paradigmatic case of the current conditions of the Roma people and those who defend their rights.
We hope there will be a just and humanitarian verdict in the case of Toma Nikolaev, and extend to all recipients of this appeal our best regards.
We claim that Toma Nikolaev get the right to stay in Britain and not be extradited to Bulgaria because there is his freedom and life in danger.
We send appeal to:
- the Westminster Magistrates’ Court
- Queen Elizabeth II
- the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom
- the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres
- the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay
- the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks
- the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz