Petar “The Feathers” Nizamov, allegedly part of a vigilante group that illegally detained migrants near the Bulgarian border, has been arrested, Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov said on April 12.
Nizamov is being held in 24-hour detention and his home and car have been searched, Tsatsarov told reporters, a day after prosecutors in the town of Malko Turnovo announced that they had begun a pre-trial investigation into an incident of illegal detention.
The arrest is the latest episode to follow the posting online of amateur video depicting the capture of migrants, said to be from Afghanistan. The vigilante group forced the migrants to the ground, bound their wrists and shouted at them in broken English to “go (to) Turkey”.
While numerous Bulgarian-language media reports erroneously have referred to the actions of the vigilante group, a self-styled “volunteer squad” border patrol, as “citizens’ arrests”, Tsatsarov pointed out to reporters that the concept of a “citizen’s arrest” does not exist in Bulgarian law.
The perpetrators would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, he said.
Tsatsarov said that other participants in the incident had been identified, as had the place where the incident occured.
The District Prosecutor’s Office in Malko Turnovo would proceed against the perpetrators for illegal deprivation of liberty.
Tsatsarov said that it was unacceptable for squads or individuals to try to take over the functions of state bodies and carry out what media reports called “refugee hunting”.
He said that everyone had a civic duty to assist the police. But attempts by anyone to impersonate the Border Police or any other part of the police force was a direct violation of the law and would be prosecuted as such, Tsatsarov said.
The latest “migrant hunting” episode has had prominent coverage in Bulgarian and foreign media and has been the subject of much comment in the Bulgarian media.
On April 12, before Tsatsarov spoke to reporters, the latest to condemn it were Bulgaria’s Interior Minister, as well as the leader of a nationalist party that supports the coalition government, and the leader of a right-wing opposition party.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, in comments on April 10, initially praised “volunteer squads” assisting the state – controversially, one such squad was in recent days given an official award – but in the face of counter-reaction to his remarks, walked back his comments to instead say that civilians should not usurp the role of state bodies and would face punishment if they did so.