A prominent Bulgarian politician survived what appeared to be a dramatic point-blank assassination attempt on Saturday, when an unidentified man pointed a gas pistol at his head and fired in front of hundreds of horrified onlookers.
Ahmed Dogan, leader and founder of the influential liberal Bulgarian political party Movement for Rights and Freedoms, was delivering an address at the party’s annual conference in the capital city of Sofia when the black-clad man — who appeared to have a security pass to attend the event — approached suddenly with the pistol.
Bulgarian party wants to track assassination attempt ’mastermind’
Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish party, whose leader escaped unhurt when a man pointed a gun to his head on stage at a party congress, has said it wants police to investigate who was the "political mastermind" behind the attack.
The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) accused the police and security services of failing to protect Ahmed Dogan from the man who tried to shoot him twice before being wrestled to the ground by security guards.
"The main goal of the investigation would be to focus on finding out who was the political mastermind of this attack," said Lyutvi Mestan, who replaced Dogan as MRF party leader as previously expected at the weekend.
"The authorities are working on the lead that this was an individual action of a criminal .... this is a huge stain on Bulgaria’s image," he told a news conference.
The party called for an international investigation into the assault by the 25-year-old man, who police identified as Oktay Enimehmedov, an ethnic Turk from the Black Sea town of Burgas.
Police said the gun used during the attack was a non-lethal gas pistol and deputy chief prosecutor Borislav Sarafov told reporters Enimehmedov faces up to five years in prison for hooliganism and up to six years for making a death threat.
Political parties in Bulgaria strongly condemned the attack against Dogan, one the most influential political figures in the European Union’s poorest member.
"The attack against Dogan is not a hooliganism. This is an assault against the national security. I categorically reject any claims that the incident was staged," said Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev.
Prime Minister Boiko Borisov told reporters: "This is a very disturbing event and should not happen in today’s Bulgaria."
The liberal MRF party represents ethnic Turks and other Muslims who make up about 12% of the Balkan country’s population of 7.3 million. Dogan was named honorary chairman of the party he has led for 23 years.
Most Muslims in Bulgaria are not recent immigrants but are a centuries-old community, mostly ethnic Turkish descendants of Ottoman rule.
The MRF was a junior partner in the previous Socialist-led cabinet in Bulgaria, which is due to hold parliamentary elections in July.
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