Bulgarian Court Increases Prison Sentence of Pazardzhik Imam over Preaching Radical Islam
The Plovdiv Appellate Court has increased the sentence of Ahmed Musa Ahmed, imam in Pazardzhik, over preaching an anti-democratic ideology, incitement of hatred and participation in an unregistered organization, from one to two years of imprisonment.
Ahmed Musa Ahmed, alongside 12 other defendants, was charged with participating in an unregistered branch of Islamic foundation Al Waqf-Al Islami which had been preaching an anti-democratic ideology based on Salafist teachings.
As regards the other defendants in the case, the suspended sentences of Abdulah Salih, Regional Mufti of Pazardzhik, and Said Mutlu, imam in Sarnitsa, were revoked, with the two facing fines of BGN 3000 and BGN 4000, respectively, instead.
The administrative penalties handed by the Pazardzhik District Court for the remaining ten defendants remain in place, according to the ruling of the Plovdiv Appellate Court issued on Wednesday.
Upon leaving court on Wednesday, Chief Mufti Mustafa Hadji said that the matter would be referred to the European Court of Human Rights.
One of the lawyers involved in the case, Vasil Vasilev, told the Bulgarian National Radio that the case would reach Strasbourg.
The lawyer of Ahmed Musa Ahmed said that he was yet to acquaint himself with the motives stated in the decision of the Plovdiv Appellate Court and then decide whether to appeal it or not.
The prosecuting authority is to also decide on appealing the revoked suspended sentences of the Regional Mufti of Pazardzhik and the imam in Sarnitsa.
The group was accused of working with an unregistered branch of Al Waqf-Al Islami, an Islamic foundation set up in the Netherlands and funded mainly by "Salafi circles" from Saudi Arabia, the court said, referring to an ultra-conservative brand of Islam.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the Pazardzhik District Prosecutor’s Office submitted an indictment against 14 defendants over preaching religion-based hatred and intolerance towards non-adherents of Salafism and fueling war propaganda by disseminating the ideas of terrorist organization the Islamic State.
The defendants were arrested in a special operation on March 31, according to a media statement of the prosecuting authority.
The submission of the indictment was preceded by a 7-month investigation, according to reports of dnevnik.bg.
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