Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission said on October 23 that it had given permission for pre-trial proceedings to go ahead against Toma Belev, a Democratic Bulgaria candidate municipal councillor in Sofia’s local elections.
The commission said that it was responding to a request by Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov in connection with a case opened by the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office.
The statement did not state the basis for the pre-trial proceedings and no statement on the matter had been posted on the case on the website of the Prosecutor’s Office by the late evening of October 23.
Belev was caught up in controversy this past weekend over a post in Facebook on the topic of transport in Bulgaria’s capital city.
“The cheapest was when Jews travelled in horse-drawn carriages – completely free,” he said, resulting in outrage and numerous reactions, including by leaders and members of the Bulgarian Jewish community sharply criticising a highly inappropriate reference to the Holocaust.
In a post on the night of October 19, Belev wrote on Facebook: “In connection with the increasing requests of politicians from VMRO and GERB to give up my campaign, I am obliged to state:
“I apologise to all who have been affected by the inappropriate and offensive way that I have expressed my position, that nowadays it is very easy for us to allow ourselves in our relationship to judge the other solely on the basis of his race, ethnicity, gender, age or skin colour, and thus open up the opportunity to bring back the shameful times of Nazism and fascism. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings”.
While there has been no official statement from the Prosecutor’s Office, Article 162 of Bulgaria’s Criminal Code says that “anyone who, by speech, press or other media, by electronic information systems or in another manner, propagates or incites discrimination, violence or hatred on the grounds of race, nationality or ethnic origin shall be punishable”.