BHC Disputes Official Version of Events in Migrant’s Shooting Death
The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) on Tuesday disputed the official version of last week’s incident, in which an Afghan migrant was shot by Bulgarian border police after illegally crossing into Bulgaria from Turkey and died on his way to hospital.
Bulgarian Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Georgi Kostov said at a news conference on Friday that a 25-year old man was shot late on Thursday when three border police officers detected a group of 54 people moving near the town of Sredets, in southeastern Bulgaria, about 30 km from the border with Turkey,
He also said that the man died from a wound in the back of his neck inflicted by a ricochet of a bullet that was fired by a border police officer as a warning shot. The group of migrants put up resistance during the arrest, which prompted police to fire a warning shot, according to one of the officers, Kostov added.
On Monday, BHC officials talked to 20 people from the group who had been sent to a migrant distribution centre in the nearby town of Elhovo following their detention.
The shot Afghan migrant was 19-year old Ziaulah Wafa, BHC said, citing his 17-year old brother, who also was at the scene of the incident. The other members of the group, with whom BHC talked, also confirmed the identity of the victim.
BNT TV channel, however, reported on Sunday that the Bulgarian authorities had established the identity of the shot migrant and gave his name as Bismillah.
The 20 migrants in Elhovo claimed during their meeting with the visiting BHC officials that there had been four or five border police officers at the scene of the incident, not three; no one in the group had resisted arrest or behaved in an aggressive way.
The group of migrants dispersed when it was confronted by police, according to the version of the migrants. They also alleged that two police officers had fired two shots each, which contradicts the official version of one shot, BHC said.
Ziaulah Wafa fell to the ground when the shots rang out. The other people from the group stopped running and lay on the ground, waiting for police to arrest them.
The discrepancy between the original version of the events presented by the authorities and the allegations made by the eyewitnesses raises questions about the intention of the authorities to reveal the genuine circumstances of the fatal shooting, according to BHC.
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva said on Monday that she had no doubt that the shooting death of the Afghan migrant had been an accident.
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