The District Court in the south-eastern Bulgarian town of Malko Turnovo on April 15 ordered “migrant hunter” Petar “The Feathers” Nizamov into house arrest pending his trial on charges of illegally detained refugees. The court turned down an application by prosecutors for Nizamov to be remanded in custody.
Nizamov’s arrest and forthcoming trial are a sequel to the posting online of an amateur video showing a group of men from Afghanistan being illegally detained near the Bulgarian border.
The District Court decided that Nizamov was not a flight risk.
Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will appeal against the house arrest ruling.
Prosecutors had argued that Nizamov had three previous criminal convictions and there was a real danger of him re-offending and so he should be remanded in custody.
Earlier this week, the Prosecutor’s Office said that Nizamov’s previous convictions were for assault and battery and for hooliganism. In trials in recent years, since 2004, he variously has been given suspended sentences and probation.
It emerged at the April 15 court hearing that Nizamov had given no explanations of his actions to investigators.
Outside the court, a handful of supporters of the “migrant hunter” shouted slogans including “Long Live Bulgaria” and “Bulgaria court locks up Bulgarians”.
Nizamov faces three charges of illegal deprivation of liberty, one for each of the Afghan men detained. A guilty verdict on a single charge carries a maximum jail term of six years.
Nizamov, who entered a plea of not guilty, emerged from the court hearing to say that he was inviting all journalists to his home to give them interviews.
He said that he would appeal against the house arrest ruling at the next instance of the court process. The second-instance hearing is expected next week.
The “migrant hunters” case has dominated domestic headlines all week and received extensive coverage in foreign media. It also has been at the centre of domestic political controversy, especially over remarks by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov that were seen as endorsing migrant-hunting, though he later insisted that such actions were unlawful and those involved in them would face prosecution.