The organizer of the failed Burgas Pride is seeking criminal liability

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Rusi Milev, represented by Adv. Natasha Dobreva, continues the criminal proceedings on the burning of the Pride flag and obstruction of the

Burgas Pride in May 2021. Then, with the help of his lawyer, he filed a report of a crime of a general nature - damage to another's movable property and obstruction of a meeting and procession. This is a specific type of crime against human rights, criminalized in the Criminal Code as "a crime against freedom of assembly, rally and demonstration". It is punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years.

After a preliminary inspection in which the author of the arson was heard, but the victims were not heard, the Burgas District Prosecutor's Office issued a decree refusing to initiate pre-trial proceedings. The prosecutor's motives are that in order for this crime to exist, the obstruction of the meeting must have been done through violence, fraud, intimidation or in any other illegal way. In this case, the burning of the flag was not such an illegal way, but an expression of position and freedom of opinion.

This week, Rusi Milev filed a complaint against the refusal decree with a higher prosecutor's office. In it he points out that the lighting of the flag was perceived by the employees of the Ministry of Interior as a threat to public order and as an individual threat to the participants in Burgas Pride. For this reason and in order to ensure their safety, the police stopped the Burgas Pride, asking the participants to disperse and banned the march on the streets, on the route previously announced in the municipality. Rusi Milev also points out that the lighting of the flag instilled fear, expressed cruelty and encouraged violence against people who had come to protest against Burgas Pride. However, the prosecutor's office did not collect data on whether the participants felt threatened with their lives and health, although this is an element of the alleged crime.

The complaint further refutes the prosecutor's false statement that in this case the arsonist had a defensible right to freedom of opinion. The Constitution clearly stipulates that this freedom "may not be used to infringe on the rights and reputation of another" or to call for "incitement to hatred or violence against the person." The case law of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights is cited, which is categorical and constant that the right to protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is stronger and prevails over the right to express one's opinion.

"A number of attempts have been made before the ECtHR to appeal to convicted persons for expressing a discriminatory homophobic position. These people are trying to defend themselves by invoking freedom of expression. However, all attempts by such applicants were unsuccessful. The ECtHR rejected them and confirmed that their sentences were correct. This is because freedom of opinion is not unlimited and it is not an absolute right. Therefore, I am sure that if the person who lit the Pride flag bears criminal responsibility in Bulgaria, he will not be able to complain to the ECHR. There is no international judge to tell him - Yes, you have legally expressed a position. I hope that the mistake of the district prosecutor from Burgas will be corrected by the superior prosecutor. "- commented the lawyer. Natasha Dobreva.

Ms Natasha Dobreva

Human Rights Barrister