1 000 Bikers Join Protest in Bulgaria's Katunitsa

Society | September 25, 2011, Sunday // 15:10|  views

A large number of bikers headed to the village of Katunitsa Sunday to join the protest organized there in the aftermath of clashes between local ethnic Bulgarians and a powerfull Roma clan. Photo by actualno.com

About 1 000 Bulgarian bikers have joined the protests in the village of Katunitsa, near the second largest city of Plovdiv, according to unnamed police sources.

The latest demonstration with demands to deport from Katunitsa notorious Roma Boss, Kiril Rashkov AKA Tsar Kiro, and his family, started in the village Sunday afternoon.

Tensions in the area began after Rashkov's grandson went to the Roma district of Stolipinovo to invite 10-15 people to mark the anniversary of his father and Rashkov son's death. Upon the arrival of three vehicles with Stolipinovo Roma in Katunitsa, a conflict erupted between Tsar Kiro's grandson and a local ethnic Bulgarian, which, allegedly, prompted the Roma driver to run over a 19-year-old boy while the latter was walking his dog. Angel Petrov was dragged by the van for several meters and later died in the hospital.

Minutes after the incident, angry people from the village began to gather. They were able to break the police chain and attack and destroy some of Rashkov's property. One of the houses was set on fire, but was extinguished by firefighters who arrived on the scene.

Five people – two young men from the village and three policemen were injured after another Roma vehicle drove through the crowd – one of the men, 30, has head trauma; the other, 18, has a broken hip. Both are listed in the Plovdiv hospital. Two policemen have sustained broken arm bones while the third has cuts and rub sores.

At the time, police arrested four Roma, who were passengers in the van that killed Angel, but the driver managed to avoid detention.

The tensions escalated further Saturday morning after a meeting with Plovdiv Police Chief Todor Chonov when local ethnic Bulgarians demanded the deportation of Rashkov's family from the village, claiming the authorities have been protecting the criminal clan for years. After the meeting the crowd went to attack the family properties once again – breaking glass and overturning Rashkov's vehicles.

During the turmoil, one of the participants in the attack, 16-year-old Pavel, passed out and was taken to the Plovdiv hospital, where he later died. The boy had been a close friend of Angel Petrov, and underwent a heart transplant several years ago.

Another 127 people were arrested Saturday evening, after 2 000 alleged football fans from the clubs of Lokomotiv Plovdiv FC, Botev Plovdiv FC, joined later by fans from Sofia's CSKA and Levski football clubs and football fans from the southern city of Stara Zagora, flocked to the village, storming and setting on fire Tsar Kiro's properties, the Head Secretary of the Interior Ministry, Chief Commissar, Kalin Georgiev, informed Sunday during a press conference held at the Regional Police Directorate building in Sofia.

The hundreds of police and gendarmerie officers brought to Katunitsa adopted a hands-off policy and abstained from tackling the arsonists, but it was reported by the TV channel bTV Sunday that the main mansion of the family has remained intact.

According to Georgiev, the policy aimed at avoiding a further escalation of tensions, and potential casualties if the police clashed with the hooligans.

He further reported that 101 of those arrested have been interrogated and 28 have been indicted. The first case against a participant in the overnight clashes had started in Plovdiv at 10:30 am Sunday, according to the Chief Commissar.

The Sunday briefing was also attended by the Head of the Plovdiv Police, Commissar, Todor Chonov, Deputy Interior Minister, Veselin Vuchkov, and the Plovdiv Regional Prosecutor, Ivan Daskalov.

Georgiev reiterated the police acted accordingly, stressing from now on no violations of public order would be tolerated. The driver of the van, identified as C.Y., 55, which killed Angel, has been arrested Saturday night upon his return from the neighboring Turkey where he escaped briefly, he confirmed.

Prosecutor Daskalov announced the man will be charged with manslaughter stemming from a traffic incident – a crime which is penalized by 10 to 20 years of jail time.

Deputy Interior Minister Vuchkov pointed out there was a coincidence between the clashes in Katunitsa and the official start of the election campaign for the October 23 presidential and local elections and voiced hope politicians would refrain from using the incident for political gains. He promised the police would remain politically unbiased and would apply all effort to safeguard ethnic peace.

"Rashkov is available to the investigation and his testimony is not a problem. The Chief Prosecutor, Boris Velchev, has ordered a probe of the source of all real estate properties and assets of the family," Daskalov said.

Meanwhile, Bozhidar Bozhinov, an official representative of the Botev Plovdiv football team's fan club firmly denied reports the overnight clashes in Katunitsa were organized by his or other clubs.

"These were just young people, who went there as demonstration of their civil position. If we lived in a country where there is rule of law this would not be going on," Bozhinov declared.

Tensions could escalate further on Sunday when the funeral of the murdered 19-year-old Bulgarian boy will take place.

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Tags: bikers, protest, Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, CSKA, Stolipinov, Botev Plovdiv, Locomotiv Plovdiv, vandalism, arson, football fans, Angel Petrov, violence, Kiril Rashkov, Tsar Kiro, police, Plovdiv, Katunitsa, Roma, VMRO, Ataka, violence, Roma, Plovdiv, Katunitsa, Kalin Georgiev, Boyko Borisov, arrested, van, Roma, driver, Levski


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