Bulgaria: Sofia mayor bans anti-Israel ‘protection of Jerusalem’ march

Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova issued an order on October 13 banning a planned march “in defence of Jerusalem” announced on Facebook by an anti-Israel individual resident in the city.

Fandukova banned the march on the basis of opinions by the State Agency for National Security and the Sofia directorate of the Interior Ministry, the municipality said.

The march, announced for 4pm to 6.30pm along a route from the National Palace of Culture to the Presidency building in central Sofia, was announced in the week following the large-scale attacks on Israel by the Hamas terrorist group.

A post on Facebook announcing the march contained anti-Israeli content, as did several other posts on the individual’s page.

Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s Office said in a media statement on its website on October 13 that in connection with frequent cases of the use of hate speech, including calls for radical actions based on religious and ethnic grounds spread on social networks, including radical Islam, it would be “uncompromising” in exercising its powers to guarantee public order and security and to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens.

“In this regard, we should remind that any call for radical actions and violence and the holding of unregulated events are contrary to the constitution and the laws of the country,” the Prosecutor’s Office said.

It said that perpetrators of such acts could be held criminally liable under provisions of the Criminal Code against preaching hatred on a religious basis and the Penal Code regarding war propaganda.

“According to the Assemblies, Rallies and Demonstrations Act, local government bodies, together with the Interior Ministry, should not allow the holding of mass events that would give rise to calls for violence, radical actions, as well as those justifying the commission of terrorist acts and war crimes,” the statement said.

The Organization of Jews in Bulgaria Shalom, in a statement on its Facebook page on October 13, expressed its sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Bulgarian authorities and especially to the Prosecutor’s Office for its clear position regarding attempts at radicalisation, and to Sofia municipality for banning the march.

With the position of the Prosecutor’s Office, Sofia stands with Berlin, Paris, London and other European capitals that have introduced or are about to introduce restrictions on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, Shalom said.

“The fight against the language of hatred and xenophobia, radicalisation and terror of organisations like Hamas must be fought persistently and consistently, with the joint efforts of civil society and state institutions,” it said.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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