Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Rises Against Xenophobic Party

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee has sent a letter to the country's Chief Prosecutor demanding a thorough investigation of Friday's clashes in downtown Sofia, in which the nationalist Ataka (Attack) party was involved.

"Today, in front of Sofia's mosque, a some serious crimes were committed. The accident marks the worrying escalation of xenophobia and religious hatred triggered by political formations for which such provocations have turned into profession," the letter says.

"All information up to now shows that Ataka played a key role in the accident. If the investigation proves that, this party should be abolished," the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee declares, citing a Council of Europe decision on fighting xenophobia and racism through penal justice from 2008, which is obligatory for Bulgaria. Earlier on Friday, supporters interrupted a Muslim Friday prayer and started a brawl which left several people, including five policemen, injured. They were protesting the fact it has loudspeakers that sound Muslim prayers in the entire area around it. As one of the protesters tried to remove a prayer rug from the space in front of the mosque, tension escalated and a fight started between the two groups. Ataka supporters were reported shouting "Bulgaria" and "Turks, get out", as well as throwing eggs at the prayers. If the police does not release the Ataka supporters, the party will move into opposition, Volen Siderov, leader of the party, threatened afterwards in the Parliament. His party is the ruling centrist-right GERB's only ally.