'Guilty': 11-Month Prison Sentence for Racist Attack in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian man charged with beating a #Roma boy has pleaded guilty to both charges against him and received a deferred 11-month prison sentence.
The Pazardjik District Court sentenced Angel Kaleev to an 11-month prison sentence, deferred for a probation period three years, in accordance with an approved settlement between his defense and the prosecution.

Kaleev was charged for attacking 17-year-old Mitko Yonkov from the village of Ovchepoltsi, in the Pazardjik region. Yonkov is of Roma origin and was attacked due to his ethnic background. Kaleev recorded the attack on his phone and later uploaded the video online.

Before the first hearing of the case, held on July 11, the court in Pazardjik granted three measures to protect Yonkov, which had been requested of his legal representative from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. The attacker was prohibited from approaching the victim, contacting him, including via telephone and e-mail, and visiting his home.

Guilty pleas

During the hearing on July 11, Kaleev pleaded guilty to both charges against him – use of violence motivated by the ethnicity of the victim, and inflicting minor bodily injury motivated by hooligan and xenophobic motives.

The court was presented with a settlement negotiated between the parties, under which Kaleev agreed to serve 11 months imprisonment under Article 162 (2) of the criminal code and another 4 months under Article 131 (1.12). The Pazardjik District Court approved the settlement and, in accordance with Article 23 (1) of the criminal code, imposed the more severe of the two punishments: 11 months, deferred for a probation period of three years.

This means that Kaleev will serve an effective sentence only if he commits another offense within the 3-year probation period. Along with that, the court ordered the Observing Commission at the Municipality of Pazardjik to assign Kaleev correctional work.

Authorities 'ignore racist crimes'

During the hearing, the court rejected the civil claim filed by the victim against the defendant for compensation of damages resulting from the offense. The Pazardjik District Court reasoned that allowing this action would impede the criminal proceedings.

The BHC will continue to pursue this claim on behalf of Yonkov in separate proceedings before a civil court.

"In Bulgaria, we are used to the fact that the investigating authorities ignore racist crimes and generally refuse to recognize them as such to an extent that even the mere fact that an indictment for racially motivated crimes was submitted to the court in the current case is a big success," said Margarita Ilieva, the director of the BHC’s Legal Defense Program.

Racism from officials

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee notes that the pre-trial proceedings in this case were accompanied by a number of racist remarks. The BHC motioned for the recusal of the forensic medical expert and the investigating officer working on the case. The medical expert told a BHC representative assisting the victim that “mango [a derogative term in Bulgarian for Roma people] is all right. Mango is fine. He was kicked a little bit.”

Later, in the presence of a BHC lawyer and the victim's mother, the investigating officer in the case asked the child if he identifies as "Bulgarian, Bulgarian citizen, or 'mango.'"

The Pazardjik District Court ignored both recusal requests.