Bulgaria’s Parliament urged to toughen penalty for preaching fascist or anti-democratic ideology

A letter has been delivered to all five parliamentary groups in Bulgaria’s National Assembly, calling on them to table amendments to the Penal Code to increase the prison term for crimes related to fascist or other anti-democratic ideology from three to five years, the Prosecutor’s Office said on July 18.

The letter was signed by Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, the president of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” Associate Professor Alexander Oscar, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov and Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev, who is Bulgaria’s National Co-ordinator for Combating Antisemitism.

The signatories said that the reason for the letter was a recent succession of manifestations of fascist ideology in incidents in Bulgaria.

The incidents included the placing on a court building in Bourgas of stickers with the image of Hitler, swastikas and the emblem of a football club; photos of a Nazi-era Wehrmacht general distributed in Kyustendil; and in the centre of Sofia, an individual already facing charges pressed by the Special Prosecutor setting fire to the national flag and urinating on it.

The signatories said that the incidents at first glance appeared isolated and without a high degree of danger to the public, and so were not always in the focus of public attention.

But at the same time, they were an indicator of a dangerous trend that would gain ground unless there was a proper response from Bulgaria’s authorities, the letter said.

The letter said that the current sanction did not correspond to the undoubtedly high level of public danger. Practice showed that if the perpetrator was an adult with no previous convictions, the penalty would be only an administrative fine, as made possible by an article of the Penal Code.

“Our belief is that such impunity should not continue. We are equally concerned about the propagating of Nazi ideology, regardless of the form in which it is carried out (from distribution of posters, to torchlit marches in the centre of the capital), and with attacks on the flag and coat of arms.”

One of the main ways to counteract such transgressions was to increase the envisaged sanction to an extent that the provision of the Penal Code allowing only the imposition of a fine woud not apply.

The parliamentary groups were urged to exercise their right to initiate legislation, to increase the prison sentence for breaching two articles of the Penal Code, one regarding preaching fascist or other anti-democratic ideology or a forcible change to Bulgaria’s constitutional order, the other, disrespecting the coat of arms, flag or anthem of Bulgaria or the flag or anthem of the European Union.

The letter proposed to the groups to table legislation that would increase the penalty for spreading fascist and anti-democratic ideology from the current three, to five years, and for debasing the national symbols, from the current two, to five years.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



The Sofia Globe staff

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