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Bulgaria Turk leader's gas-gun attacker charged

A man points a gas pistol at Bulgaria's Turkish party leader Ahmed Dogan in Sofia on January 19, 2013
A video grab from Bulgarian television channel BTV shows a man pointing a gas pistol at veteran Turkish minority party leader Ahmed Dogan on January 19, 2013. The man will face hooliganism and death threat charges, prosecutors in Sofia said Sunday.

A man who pointed a gas pistol at the head of Bulgaria's Turkish minority party while he was speaking at a party conference will face hooliganism and death threat charges, prosecutors in Sofia said Sunday.

Police identified the attacker as 25-year-old Oktay Enimehmedov, an ethnic Turk from the eastern city of Burgas, who targeted Ahmed Dogan while he was addressing a conference of his liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party on Saturday.

Deputy chief prosecutor Borislav Sarafov said Enimehmedov faces up to five years in prison on the grave hooliganism charge and up to six years on the death threat charge.

Dramatic video of the attack against the 58-year-old Bulgarian ethnic Turks leader quickly circulated online.

In the footage, Dogan can be seen swiping away his attacker's outstretched arm before any shot is fired. The weapon appears to have jammed.

Several men in suits then wrestle the attacker to the ground before he is subjected to a drawn-out beating, in which he is repeatedly kicked and punched.

Bulgarian security officers escort a bloodied man after he attacked Ahmed Dogan in Sofia on January 19, 2013
Bulgarian security officers escort a bloodied man after he attacked Ahmed Dogan at a party conference in Sofia on January 19, 2013. Police identified the attacker as 25-year-old Oktay Enimehmedov, an ethnic Turk from the eastern city of Burgas.

Police experts examined the small handgun and said it would not have threatened Dogan's life, even if fired from close quarters. The three bullets loaded in it could have only caused minor skin burns, they added.

Police psychology institute chief Nedelcho Stoychev said Sunday that the attacker did not really intend to kill Dogan but only to frighten him, to show him that he "was not untouchable" while getting "his five minutes of fame."

Enimehmedov feared he himself might die in the incident and left a letter that police found in his Sofia flat, Stoychev said.

Prosecutors are also considering whether to press charges against some of those captured on video kicking the prostrate assailant after he was disarmed, Sarafov said Sunday.

Dogan, 58, who played a key role in Bulgaria's post-communist transition and won crucial rights for the country's 10-percent minority of ethnic Turks, announced his planned resignation hours after the attack that put his party back in the spotlight.

The experienced and extremely versatile politician, who had led the MRF since its formation 23 years ago, named his deputy Lyutvi Mestan as successor.

He however agreed to remain an honorary MRF chairman for life.

Turkish minority party leader Ahmed Dogan attempts to fend off his attacker in Sofia on January 19, 2013
This video grab from Bulgarian television channel BTV shows Turkish minority party leader Ahmed Dogan attempting to fend off his attacker in Sofia on January 19, 2013. Visibly stunned, Dogan flung the attacker's arm away before a shot could be fired.

The MRF leader had become notorious over the years for his ability to control and mobilise his electorate -- mainly coming from Bulgaria's 800,000-strong minority of ethnic Turks, which is the largest share of indigenous ethnic Turkish population in the European Union.

Under his leadership, the liberal MRF party was traditionally the third political power in the country and participated in two successive coalition governments between 2001 and 2009.

It is now in opposition to the right-wing government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Dogan explained his decision to resign by a recent "demonisation" of his image that he said was detrimental to the party ahead of general elections in July.

His communist police past, authoritarian ways, political arrogance, alleged corruption and diverse coalitions with conservatives, liberals and socialists (ex-communists) had indeed gradually attracted criticism from all sides.

But Dogan was generally praised for his role in maintaining Bulgaria's ethnic peace while ethnic conflicts raged in the country's Balkan neighbours in the 1990s.

The attack against the controversial politician was condemned by all political parties.

"Whatever the motives, this is not civilised, this is not right," Borisov commented.

The premier himself however drew a lot of criticism over what analysts saw as failing security in the country.

"The attack showed that the state has abdicated from its functions, which is dangerous especially as elections are round the corner," political analyst Evgeniy Daynov commented.

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