Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish party has called for an international investigation into a failed attack its founder on Saturday.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 22/01/13
Turkish minority Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party leader Ahmed Dogan knocks a gas pistol away from an assailant during his speech at a national party conference in Sofia on January 19th. The attacker was disarmed and there were no injuries. [AFP]
Bulgaria's predominantly ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) has called for an international probe after a gunman confronted its long-time leader, Ahmed Dogan, shortly before he stepped down on Saturday (January 19th).
"The main aim of the investigation would be to identify the political mastermind of the assault," Lyutvi Mestan said at a special news conference on Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours following his election as the new MRF head.
Dogan was delivering a speech at the party's national conference in Sofia when a gunman in a black leather jacket ran on stage and pointed a non-lethal gas pistol at the politician's head. The man, later identified as Oktay Enimehmedov, a 25-year-old ethnic Turkish university student from the Black Sea city of Burgas, pulled the trigger once, then a second time, but failed to produce a shot.
Dogan, who founded the MRF in 1990 to represent the interests of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria, was apparently surprised and startled. He wrestled briefly with the attacker before being rushed out of the hall by security guards.
Meanwhile, a group of conference delegates who had also flocked to the scene tackled Enimehmedov to the floor, kicking and beating him continuously until police intervened and took him away. The assailant, who was found to be carrying a couple of knives as well, was convicted twice in the past, according to police. The first time was in 2006 for causing bodily harm and the second one four years later for drug possession.
Police officials stressed that Enimehmedov used a non-lethal gas pistol in the attack. He would be charged with hooliganism, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison, and making a death threat, for which he could get a jail term of up to six years, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Borislav Sarafov said.
But on Sunday, Mestan called the attack an attempted ritual political murder and accused authorities of misrepresenting the truth behind the incident.
He claimed that Sofia City Prosecutor Nikolay Kokinov had told him 30 minutes after the assault that Enimehmedov would be charged with a murder attempt.
"We are asking the authorities today -- what changed in 10 hours so that we are now being inundated with totally opposite information about how the man only wanted his moment of glory," Mestan noted at the MRF news conference.
At a separate news conference earlier on Sunday, Nedelcho Stoychev, head of the interior ministry's Institute of Psychology, told reporters that the goal of Enimehmedov's attack was a political coup within the MRF and to send a signal to its leader that things need to change.
"He wanted Dogan to understand that he is not untouchable," Bulgarian media quoted the psychology expert as saying.
The incident was condemned by various party leaders, including Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the head of the ruling centre-right GERB party.
"This is a worrying event that should not take place in modern Bulgaria," he said, noting also that the attack appeared a genuine one and not staged, as many Bulgarians have speculated.
Ahmed Dogan’s attacker, Oktay Enimehmedov, faces five years in prison if he is convicted. [AFP]
His predecessor, Sergey Stanishev, the leader of both the Bulgarian Socialist Party, as well as the Party of European Socialists, agreed with that, but not with the attack being qualified as an act of hooliganism.
"This is an assault against the national security. I categorically reject any claims that the incident was staged," he said.
According to Evgeniy Dainov, a professor in political science at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia, the incident caused much harm. The worst, he told SETimes, comes "from the paranoid reaction of the Bulgarian society, including educated people and politicians, who are convinced that it [the attack] was staged by Dogan himself, which is a paranoid behavior, unworthy of a European country."
The incident, showed that "the barbarization of political and social mores that people like myself have been warning about since GERB came to power has reached a peak, with barbaric rhetoric being replaced by barbaric behavior," Dainov said.
The other thing it showed again, according to him, was that "there was lack of law and order, and of security in Bulgaria, that the institutions are mostly dysfunctional and fail to intervene in situations, in which people require and deserve protection."
"Those two things in particular are what will tarnish most Bulgaria's image abroad," he said.
Retired General Atanas Atanasov, a lawmaker of the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) and a former head of the country's security services, was particularly critical of the way the officers from the National Bodyguard Service (NBS) handled the situation.
"The conduct of the Dogan's bodyguards was absolutely inept," he told SETimes, explaining that the now former MRF leader was assigned NBS protection following a signal about a possible death threat against him.
"This was not a complex situation -- Dogan was on stage, in a quiet hall, so his bodyguards should have easily spotted the attacker," Atanasov said. "Their conduct was absolutely inept and unprofessional."
Commenting on the MRF's call for an international investigation into the case, he said that obviously, the party's "aim was to make as much noise as possible and to use a negative development as a tool for a positive PR" action. Secondly, their move indicated that "a parliamentary represented party has no trust in the Bulgaria's law enforcement institutions."