Bulgaria jails Roma clan leader over death threats

Bulgaria jails Roma clan leader over death threats

SOFIA - Reuters
Bulgaria jails Roma clan leader over death threats

Rashkov's houses and cars were set on fire during the ethnic clashes. Hürriyet photo

A Bulgarian court sentenced Roma clan leader Kiril Rashkov to three and a half years in prison for making death threats during a confrontation with villagers that stirred the Balkan country's biggest anti-Roma rallies. 

The regional court in Asenovgrad found Rashkov, also known as Tsar Kiro, guilty of threatening two fellow villagers just hours before a 19-year-old ethnic Bulgarian man was killed in a car accident caused by a man linked to Rashkov. 

"Rashkov was sentenced late on Monday to three years and six months imprisonment for making death threats to two people," court chairman Ivan Krivatsev told Reuters. 

State news agency BTA quoted one of Rashkov's lawyers as saying the verdict will be appealed.
The death of the Bulgarian teenager sparked clashes between Roma and Bulgarians in the village of Katunitsa, some 160 km. east of Sofia. Rashkov's houses and cars were set on fire. 
Thousands of young people took to the streets following the incident, rallying against minority Roma gypsies and demanding an end to "impunity" for organised crime in the European Union's poorest country.. 
Villagers say Rashkov, 69, regularly behaved as if he were untouchable, grabbing land and making threats. 
He was convicted several times before the fall of communism for possession of foreign exchange and gold, has been arrested multiple times - including for illegal production of alcohol - and is currently being investigated for large-scale tax evasion. 
Prosecutors have vowed to pursue "feudal lords" paying little or no taxes despite lavish lifestyles. 

Failure to sever links between high level officials and organised crime bosses has plagued Bulgaria since the end of communism in 1989 and is a key reason why European Union countries still bar it from joining the passport-free Schengen zone.

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