Bulgarian Radical Islam Trial Continues amid Renewed Protests
The trial against 13 Bulgarian Muslim religious leaders for preaching radical Islam continues Wednesday at the Pazardzhik District Court.
The Wednesday hearing is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. and is expected to be accompanied by a protest rally scheduled by nationalist party VMRO-BND.
The demonstration is to start at 8:30 in front of the Pazardzhik Municipality and end opposite the Courthouse in the southern Bulgarian city.
The rally protests the alleged pressure exercised by men in black robes and burqa-clad women standing outside the court.
The demonstration expects support from a number of other nationalist organizations.
Local police plan to implement enhanced security measures and seal off the area, according to reports of the Interior Ministry, as cited by Darik radio.
The previous court hearing in end-October was accompanied by a rally attended by over 500 people, who demanded that the court be provided a pressure-free environment.
Parallel protests were staged by marginal nationalist parties Ataka and National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria.
All court hearings of the trial have been accompanied by silent demonstrations of Muslims, except for the last one, when the Muslim protesters dispersed due to the counter-protest.
During Wednesday's court hearing, three confidential witnesses codenamed 002, 004, and 005, will testify.
The Pazardzhik-based court has already examined 28 non-confidential witnesses and one protected witness.
The trial against the 13 members of the Al Waqf-Al Islami organization's local branch was launched on September 18.
The suspects have been charged with preaching an undemocratic ideology and seeking to impose Sharia law, with leading and participating in an unregistered religious entity preaching an undemocratic ideology and with preaching religious intolerance.
According to the indictment, the defendants built their belief systems in line with elements of Salafism, which they presented in Bulgaria in a radical version in the period March 2008 – October 6, 2010.
All suspects have pleaded not guilty.
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Bulgaria is not an Islamic country (although there may be many Muslims citizens) so Shia law cannot and should not apply. If this group have been speaking out publicly in an undemocratic or inflammatory way then they should face a charge of inflating religious intolerance or something similar. Bulgaria must not allow itself to be backed into a corner by these groups as has happened in the UK and other western European countries, learn from their mistakes. I suggest Bulgaria takes its lead from Australia and our PM should study the statements made by their PM on citizenship in regards to other racial/religious groups.