Witnesses in the trial in absentia of two Hezbollah members facing terrorism charges over the July 2012 attack on Israeli tourists at Bourgas Airport described to Bulgaria’s Special Court the chaos and panic that had followed a suicide bomb explosion.
In the terrorist attack, which an international investigation led by Bulgaria established was the work of the military wing of Hezbollah, five Israelis, a Bulgarian and the bearer of the bomb died.
The January 17 2018 hearing was the first in which witnesses gave evidence, following a long succession of false starts to the trial in 2016 and 2017.
Stoyan Stoyanov, a taxi driver at Bourgas Airport, told the court that he had been about 70 metres from the explosion. He said that he had heard two blasts a few seconds apart.
Debris had been scattered over a radius of about 50 metres, Stoyanov said.
Witnesses told the court that there had been “complete chaos and panic” following the bomb blast.
The court heard that on the day of the terrorist attack against the Israelis, who had been meant to take the charter bus to a popular Bulgarian Black Sea summer resort, only two Border Police were on duty, on a 12-hour shift from 8am to 8pm.
The Border Police did not have the capacity to check all the travellers. They had not noticed the bomber.
Stoyanov told the court that since the attack, security at Bourgas Airport had been increased significantly.
Bulgarian media quoted prosecutor Krassimir Tenchev as saying that the low level at the airport had facilitated the actions of the perpertrators of the terrorist attack.
The case was adjourned until two further hearings of witnesses, on February 6 and 7.
Those accused in the terrorist attack on the group of Israeli tourists on July 18 2012 are Meliad Farah, holder of Australian and Lebanese citizenship, and Hassan El Hajj Hassan, a Canadian passport-holder, who face terrorism and document fraud charges in connection with their assistance of Mohamad Hassan El-Husseini, who died in the bomb attack.
The two accused are the subject of an Interpol search warrant but have not been taken into custody, which is why the trial is being held in absentia.
(Photo of the bus targeted in the terrorist attack in Bourgas in July 2012: Bulgarian Interior Ministry)