Bulgarian police arrested Friday more than 120 people after hundreds of stone-throwing nationalists and football hooligans chanting racist slogans tried to storm a mosque in Plovdiv, officials said.
“One policeman and several protesters were injured. Over 120 people were detained” in the central Bulgarian city, interior ministry chief of staff Svetlozar Lazarov told bTV television.
“There was racist and xenophobic chanting and stone throwing,” he said, adding that a tight police cordon prevented attempts by the crowd to “storm” the place of Muslim worship during Friday prayers.
The incident, which comes amid rising anti-foreigner feeling in the European Union’s poorest country, came after a protest by more than 2,000 nationalist and football “ultras” outside Plovdiv’s court of appeal.
They wanted to press judges to overturn an earlier ruling from October to return to Bulgaria’s Grand Mufti another ancient mosque building in the nearby town of Karlovo nationalised in the early 20th century.
The spiritual head of Bulgaria’s large Muslim minority, who make up 13 percent of the population, has launched 26 court claims for 29 properties in different cities in recent years.
This has prompted an outburst of nationalist feelings among Bulgaria’s predominantly Orthodox Christian population.
The influx last year of more than 11,000 people fleeing the conflict in Syria and elsewhere has also heightened xenophobia and boosted support for nationalistic formations, polls show.
The Grand Mufti’s office slammed Friday’s outburst of tensions as a “vandalistic pogrom,” adding that it was “inadmissible for football fans to tell a court how to rule on a case.”
The Plovdiv court is due to come up with a ruling within a month.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]