By Mariya Cheresheva
A court has placed Petar Nizamov, whose video of ‘citizen’s arrest’ of three migrants caused an international outcry, under house arrest as his trial continues.
A regional court in the town of Malko Tarnovo on Friday released Petar Nizamov, the vigilante migrant hunter who published a video of three Afghan migrants he had “captured” on April 10, to home arrest.
The court said there were no sufficient grounds to keep the 30-year-old in detention pending the rest of his trial. If proven guilty, he could face up to six years in prison. The next court session will be on April 21 in Burgas, the judges announced.
A dozen supporters of Nizamov protested in front of the court building, waving Bulgarian flags, some of them wearing military clothes.
The unrepentant vigilante emerged from the court shouting “Long Live Bulgaria” and was welcomed with shouts and applause.
His lawyer told BIRN that he had already filed an appeal against home arrest.
Nizamov was arrested on Monday.
The prosecution launched an investigation against him after he published an amateur video of his apprehension of illegal migrants on Facebook.
It showed three men lying with their faces to the ground and their hands tied behind their backs with plastic bands while the “hunters” shouted “No Bulgaria – go back to Turkey!”
Burgas prosecutor Lubomir Petrov said on Wednesday that the vigilante was recognized by one of the three Afghan men, who were later found by the border police, no longer tied up.
According to tthe hree, around ten people, armed with knives, one of them with a gun, pushed them on the ground, beat them, tied them up and rifled their pockets for money and other possessions.
Police later raided Nizamov’s house, where they found knives, a machete and marijuana, the prosecution said.
Citizens’ arrests are illegal in Bulgaria but have become popular among nationalist groups which regularly patrol Bulgaria’s border with Turkey.
Dinko Valev, from Yambol, was the first “migrant hunter” to come under a spotlight after he admitted on television that he forcibly detained a group of 12 migrants in February.
Following a complaint to the prosecutor’s office by the rights group, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, police summoned him for questioning in Burgas on March 25 and again in Yambol on Wednesday.
On April 6, the border police awarded a voluntary border patrol that had detained 23 refugees near the border with Turkey.
Three days later, on April 9, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov also praised the effort of the patrols, saying every that every show of support for the state was “welcome”.
However, following an international outcry over Nizamov’s video, the Bulgarian authorities made a sharp change in their position.
Borissov on Monday said that “any illegal action or inhumane treatment is not tolerated by the state and will be prosecuted”.
Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova and Prosecutor General Sotir Tzatzarov also condemned Nazimov’s action as illegal.
“Any forms of self-organization of citizen formations, who take the law in their own hands, especially in fields related to limiting human rights, are definitely unacceptable,” President Rosen Plevneliev noted on Thursday.
Prosecutor Rayko Stoyanov told BIRN that no other suspects had been arrested but members of Nizamov’s group had been questioned on Thursday and the investigators are looking for more suspects and witnesses.