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.