Mayor of Bulgaria's Galiche Remains in Custody
The appellate specialised criminal court ruled on Tuesday that the controversial mayor of the Bulgarian village of Galiche, Tsenko Chokov, is to remain in custody.
At the end of May, Chokov was detained in a specialised police operation on charges of heading an organised crime group involved in usury, racketeering, kidnapping, setting property on fire, inflicting physical injuries.
Another seven people, including one of the mayor's sons, Martin Chokov, as well as the local leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) in Byala Slataina, Kasam Kasamov, were also detained in the police operation on charges of participating in the orgnanised group.
Later, Kasamov was released, while another of the detained, Vasil Filipovski, was placed under house arrest.
The court ruled on Tuesday that Martin and the four other suspects are also to remain in custody.
The prosecutor's office presented new evidence, which included testimonies of witnesses, while the lawyers presented letters of gratitude and petition in support of the mayor signed by 400 people.
The appellate court did not agree with the prosecution that Chokov was ringleader of the group despite the abundant evidence, but according to it there was evidence that his son often headed the group.
The crimes have been perpetrated systematically during a certain period of time, with the participants having established lasting links between themselves.
The methods employed by the gang were identified as “inhumane” and included drowning in dams, hanging people upside down in wells, beating people with cables, squeezing people in car boots, sexual harassment, physical and mental abuse.
According to the evidence, the gang loaned money, with the interest rates reaching 20-30 % and in some cases up to 50 %.
On several occasions residents of the village have complained of being abused by Chokov, who was reelected to a fifth term in the local elections last year.
The decision of the court is final and is not subject to appeal.
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