Bulgaria clamps down on radical Islamists

24.06.2016

Bulgaria took a step on Thursday towards outlawing radical Islamic preaching, fundraising and the recruitment of jihadists, in the first such move in a country with a large Muslim minority.

Penal code amendments approved by parliament on a first reading will punish radical Islamic preaching with up to three years in jail and a fine of up to 5,000 leva (2,500 euros, $2,900).

The legislation, proposed by the far-right Patriotic Front, coalition partners of Prime Minister's Boyko Borisov, defined radical preaching as calling for Islamic law or incitement to holy war. The head of the Patriotic Front, Krasimir Karakachanov, said that Bulgaria's centuries-old Muslim minority, which makes up 13 percent of the population, was not the target.

But Aliosman Imamov, an MP with the Turkish minority MRF party representing the minority, said he was "fed up with people trying to convince me that my religion is radical."

Bulgaria's intelligence services have repeatedly said they have no information about any Bulgarians having joined the Islamic State jihadist group. However several members of a radical Muslim community in the town of Pazardzhik are currently on trial for allegedly propagating extremism and helping foreigners passing through Bulgaria join IS.

The 13 men, from Bulgaria's Roma minority, were allegedly pictured with black IS flags and T-shirts, shouting Islamist slogans and making the raised-finger IS "salute". They include the controversial self-proclaimed Roma imam Ahmed Moussa Ahmed who was already convicted for inciting hatred on religious grounds.

The new legislation is aimed at making it easier to secure convictions in future cases of this kind. Bulgaria's parliament also moved last week to impose a nationwide ban on the wearing of Islamic face veils in public after several towns banned the niqab at the local level.    (AFP)

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