The “radical Islam” trial in the Bulgarian town of Pazardjik entered its final stage on January 29, with the prosecutors saying in their closing arguments that they no longer supported the charges of preaching religious hatred and anti-democratic ideology aimed at undermining the secular state and democratic values, levelled against two of the defenders, reports in Bulgarian media said.
Thirteen defendants are charged in the trial with membership in an unrecognised religious organisation, while three of them had been indicted on charges of preaching religious hatred. After the prosecution’s closing arguments, only Ahmed Moussa Ahmed was being accused of preaching religious hatred, news website Mediapool.bg reported.
The defendants were arrested in October 2010, following a series of raids carried out by prosecutors, the Interior Ministry and Bulgaria’s main intelligence agency, the State Agency for National Security (at that point helmed by Tsvetlin Yovchev, now Interior Minister).
All defendants were charged with being members of the Al-Waqf Al-Islami organisation, not recognised by Bulgaria as a religious group. (Although the organisation was reportedly registered in Bulgaria in 1993, under the country’s law on the registration of religious groups, it was denied registration the following year. In 1999, one of its leaders was expelled from Bulgaria as a threat to national security.)
Following a lengthy investigation, resulting in 31 volumes of evidence to be presented in court – much of it based on the testimony of protected witnesses, according to the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) – charges were finally pressed in June 2012. All defendants denied having carried out any activity undermining the secular state.
During the hearings, most of the public witnesses recanted their earlier testimony, BNR said.
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)