Bulgaria charges seven Muslims including an imam for supporting ISIS

Imam Ahmed Mussa sits inside a court as 12 Bulgarian men, most of them imams, and one woman are charged for preaching radical Islam, in Pazardzhik March 19, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)

A Bulgarian imam and six others, who were detained during a special operation by security forces in March, have been charged with supporting ISIS, prosecutors said last Wednesday.

Charges against Imam Ahmed Mussa, five men and one woman include propagating an “anti-democratic ideology” and incitement to war, both verbally and with videos and images, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Borislav Sarafov said.

Bulgarian security forces raided more than 40 homes and a mosque in southern Bulgaria last Tuesday to seize books and computers in a special operation aimed at uncovering terrorist activities.

Some 26 people were held for 24 hours and 30 witnesses were questioned during the operation, conducted by more than 400 police officers, security agents, prosecutors and investigators.

“(Mussa) is an intelligent man, so he has accepted the prosecutors’ decision and he has not expressed indignation regarding his detention,” Elvira Pankova, Mussa’s lawyer, told reporters.

Investigators discovered a large number of shirts, hats, flags and banners with the “ISIS flag”.

Sarafov said that Mussa, a former Christian of the Roma origin who converted to Islam in 2000 while working in Vienna, had preached surrounded by ISIS flags.

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The imam had told his followers to be prepared to fight against Christianity to achieve the ultimate goal of establishing a global caliphate, according to Sarafov.

He also said Mussa’s group had attempted to recruit fighters for ISIS and that the crimes in question were committed between July 2014 and November 2014.

Mussa was sentenced to a year in jail for spreading “radical Islam” last March in a case seen as a test for the delicate relations between the country’s minority Muslims and Orthodox Christian majority. He was freed pending an appeal.

Bulgaria has supported the US-led coalition to fight ISIS but has not committed militarily.

Bulgaria is a rare EU country where Muslims are not recent immigrants but a centuries-old community, mostly ethnic Turkish descendants of Ottoman rule that ended in 1878.

They make up about 12 percent of the 7.3 million population.

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