Bulgarian Court condemns political hate speech

Sofia, 4 August 2006. The Sofia trial court has delivered a judgment against Volen Siderov, MP and leader of the xenophobic Attack political party. The court has ruled that Siderov’s public hate speech against Roma, Jews, Turks, homosexuals, and all “non-Bulgarians”, and his declarations that only Bulgarians will be in Parliament and MPs will only protect Bulgarians, constitutes harassment and incitement to discrimination. The court has ordered Siderov to stop making such statements, and to refrain from any similar ones in the future.

The ruling is based on Bulgaria’s comprehensive anti-discrimination law. The case was brought by the “Citizens Against Hatred” Coalition, a broad civil society alliance organised and led by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and supported by the European Roma Rights Center. The Coalition is comprised of 68 public interest groups and numbers of individuals, including well-known writers, academics, theatre directors, political scientists, actors, journalists, and a former constitutional and Strasbourg judge. The judges divided the Coalition claimants into the eight separate sets along identity lines in order to review their claims separately. Eight separate sets of proceedings against Siderov are to be decided by the court. This case where the claimant is an Armenian woman is the first one to be decided out of the eight. In the 7 remaining cases claimants are, respectively, the 68 civil associations, Jewish people, gay and lesbian people, Turkish, Roma, Macedonian, and Vlach people. The claimants are represented by Margarita Ilieva, a lawyer practising in Sofia.

Volen Siderov, leader of the parliamentary nationalist Attack Coalition, is author of a number of anti-Semitic and anti-Roma publications, and sustained TV broadcast xenophobic propaganda. He openly campaigns against religious and ethnic minorties, particularly against Roma, Turks, and Jews, and homosexuals. These sentiments received parliamentary representation in the June 2005 elections when the coalition led by Siderov won 8.14% of the total vote, thus becoming the 4th largest party in parliament.