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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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Hezbollah cleared of involvement in Bulgarian bus bombing

Bombing a bus in Bulgaria in 2012

Share on Facebook February 3, 2018, Reporter : BNN, Reader : 115

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JERUSALEM - The long anticipated trial of two men charged with bombing a bus in Bulgaria in 2012 is underway, however the prosecution has dropped a bombshell in the early stages of the proceedings.

Since the day of the attack, which killed five Isralies and a Bulgarian bus driver and wounded 32 more Israelis, Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been blamed for it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly named Hezbollah as being behind the attack, just two hours after it took place. At the time the European Union was debating whether to designate the Lebanese group's militant wing as a terrorist organisation. In the wake of the attack, the designation was applied in 2013.

Now years, later, it appears Hezbollah was not involved at all. There is even a question as to whether the bombing was a terrorist attack. 

Mr Netanyahu was not alone in publicly blaming Hezbollah. “We have established that the two accused were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.” Bulgaria’s then-interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said at the time of the attack. “There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects.”

Others however were not so sure. According to a report by the Big News Network news agency on February 6 2013, Bulgaria's then-Opposition Leader Sergey Stanishev blasted his government for publishing findings while the investigation was ongoing, saying the implication of Hezbollah was "poorly founded."

The director of the European Union's police agency, Rob Wainwright, said he agreed with the suggestion the attack had its origins in Lebanon from the modus operandi of the attack, but added the specific link to Hezbollah was less certain.

The Bulgarian state prosecution ultimately threw out any implication of Hezbollah, with the chief prosecutor saying there was no evidence of any link.

Asked why there was no mention of Hezbollah in the indictment, Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said the content of the indictment was completely within the competences of the prosecutor who is in charge of the case.

“The executive and the judiciary powers are separated and independent of each other. The prosecutor’s office is part of the judiciary of the Republic of Bulgaria,” Milena Petrova of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Lebanese-Australian national Meliad Farah and Lebanese-Canadian national El Hajj Hassan are facing trial in absentia over the bombing. The men are believed to have fled to Lebanon. Their trial began on January 17 2018 and will resume on February 6 2018. Both men were designated “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” by the Department of State following the Bulgarian bus attack.

The Jerusalem Post, one of the few media organisations to cover the non-implication of Hezbollah in the attack, in an article on Wednesday questioned whether the Bulgarian government was involved in a cover-up. "Why has Bulgaria’s prosecution decided to keep Hezbollah out of the case in contradiction of its former ministers, the EU and the US? Why did the specific prosecutor on the case say he did not receive any evidence about Hezbollah? Could that mean that higher-ups did not pass on all of the evidence to him? Are the motivations part of a problematic cover-up, either ideological or based on fear of retaliation from Hezbollah, or might they be related to issues of maintaining the secrecy of intelligence sources or some more understandable reason? These questions remain unanswered, but the ongoing trial, with its next date set for February 6, may continue to shed light on the issue even as the prosecution seems intent on burying it," the 'Post article said.

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