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After court acquittal, self-styled vigilante in Bulgaria vows to continue 'hunting migrants'

Peter Nizamov was found not guilty of false imprisonment of three migrants in April 2016.

File photo - immigration registration centre in Bulgaria
File photo - immigration registration centre in Bulgaria
Image: Visar Kryeziu/AP/Press Association Images

A SELF-STYLED Bulgarian border vigilante vowed this week to continue his hunt for migrants trying to enter the EU country, after a court acquitted him of illegally detaining and abusing three asylum-seekers.

“I will return to the border and keep controlling it to stop the migrants,” Petar Nizamov told Bulgarian media, a day after he was freed.

Nizamov was arrested in April 2016 after he posted a video online showing three frightened migrant men lying on the ground with their hands being tied behind their backs in woods on the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

Several vigilantes were seen standing around the men, with at least one of them wearing combat fatigues and a hunting knife on his belt.

The voice of a vigilante was heard to say: “Go back (to) Turkey… No Bulgaria for you.”

The video, which went viral and was also broadcast on Bulgarian television, sparked major outcry.

But Nizamov was acquitted on Tuesday after witnesses said they could not remember who had tied up the migrants.

Prosecutors who had sought a two-year sentence said they would appeal the ruling.

Bulgaria, which shares a 259-kilometre border with Turkey, saw a rise in vigilante cases last year as migrants sought new routes to western and northern Europe following the closure of the so-called western Balkans trail.

Around 19,000 mostly Afghan asylum-seekers remain stranded in Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest country.

Although the number pales in comparison to other bloc members like Greece and Italy hosting migrants, the issue features heavily in the upcoming general election on March 26.

“Send them back to where they came from” is one of the slogans pushed by the Socialists who are neck and neck with the conservatives.

A recent Gallup poll showed some 77% of Bulgarians think migrants pose a threat to national security.

© AFP 2017

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