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Boyan Rasate

SOFIA -- A right-wing nationalist candidate in this month's presidential election has been detained and indicted over a weekend attack on an LGBT community center in the capital.

Boyan Rasate was detained for 72 hours and is facing charges of hooliganism and infliction of an injury, the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on November 3, three days after his legal immunity as a presidential candidate was lifted, opening the way for the prosecution.

Both crimes carry prison sentences.

Prosecutors said the 50-year-old Rasate did not admit any guilt and declined to make a statement.

On October 30, a group of about 10 men and women stormed and vandalized the Rainbow Hub, a venue for LGBT-related events in central Sofia. The Bilitis Foundation that runs the center accused Rasate of leading the attack.

Activist Gloria Filipova claimed she was punched in the face by Rasate, whom she recognized. She also said he was carrying a knife.

The assault was condemned by Bulgaria's leading political parties, 11 Western embassies, and human rights activists.

Born Boyan Stankov, Rasate is the founder of the Bulgarian National Union (BNS), which is no longer under his leadership. He is known for his rhetoric against the LGBT community and migrants.

He was detained late on November 2 as he was leaving the building of Bulgarian National Television, where he was participating in a program on the November 14 presidential election.

"The crimes committed stand out with their extreme audacity and disrespect for the democratic foundations of the state," prosecutors said in their statement.

In a tweet, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, urged Bulgarian authorities to conduct a swift investigation into the attack against Rainbow Hub, calling it “another worrying example of mounting threats against NGOs working for #equalrights for the LGBTI community.”

Amnesty International said in a statement that Bulgarian authorities must now amend the law to recognize homophobic violence as hate crimes.

Hate crimes are not specifically outlawed in Bulgaria, with the penal code treating them as acts of hooliganism.

“There is no doubt that the attack on the Rainbow Hub Community Centre was motivated by hatred, and this appalling incident has exposed the shortcomings of Bulgaria’s laws and justice system,” the London-based human rights group said.

Ramila Saitova (file photo)

UFA, Russia -- A court in Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan has sentenced noted activist Ramila Saitova to three years in a colony settlement after finding her guilty of calling for extremist activities.

The Kirov district court in Bashkortostan's capital, Ufa, handed down the verdict and sentence on November 3. Judge Azamat Bikchurin also banned Saitova from being an administrator for any online social networks for two years.

A colony settlement is a dormitory-like penitentiary located near an industrial facility where convicts work alongside the general public.

Saitova pleaded not guilty and her defense team said it will appeal the court's ruling.

The charge against the activist stemmed from her online posts in 2020 in which she called on the mostly Muslim-populated republic's residents to hold public gatherings to question what she called an "overwhelming number" of Orthodox Christian crosses in the region.

In some of her online posts, Saitova demanded Bashkortostan's government raise the issue of "returning land" that belonged to Bashkirs before it was made part of Russia's other regions.

In September 2020, she was sentenced to 10 days in jail after a court found her guilty of inciting ethnic hatred by questioning the presence of ethnic Armenians in Bashkortostan.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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