SOFIA, Bulgaria – A Bulgarian who tried to shoot a gas pistol at the leader of his country's ethnic Turkish political party testified Tuesday that his only regret is that his weapon didn't work.
"I did not intend to kill Ahmed Dogan. I just intended to scare him," Oktay Enimehmedov told a court hearing.
Enimehmedov, 25, has been charged with making a murder threat and hooliganism for aiming the gas pistol at Dogan's head on Jan. 19 as the leader of Bulgaria's Movement for Rights and Freedom was on a stage giving a speech at his party's annual conference in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.
The gun didn't fire and Dogan, 58, was not harmed, but Dogan pushed the gunman's hand, then dove to the floor as other people at the conference wrestled Enimehmedov to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked him.
"I regret only that my gun misfired," Enimehmedov told the court hearing, which denied him bail for two reasons: he could flee and his own safety could be at risk.
Experts say a gas pistol is a nonlethal weapon used for self-defense, but that when fired from close range it can cause life-threatening injuries.
A TV video of the attack, which went viral on Internet, has prompted hundreds of Bulgarians to demand that delegates who beat Enimehmedov be brought to justice. On Tuesday, Deputy Prosecutor General Borislav Sarafov told reporters an investigation of the beating of Enimehmedov is under way and that those responsible could face charges.
Dogan's Movement for Rights and Freedom party mainly represents ethnic Turks and other Muslims in Bulgaria, who make up 12 percent of the nation's 7.3-million people. Dogan has been the party's leader since he founded it in 1990, and the Jan. 19 conference chose Lyutvi Mestan, Dogan's deputy, as his successor.
On Tuesday, an alliance of European political parties issued a statement requesting that the European Union hold a plenary hearing about the rule of law and personal freedoms in Bulgaria in the wake of the assault on Dogan.
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said: "It was a miracle that the incident did not end up tragically and should not be dismissed lightly." He said that such an attack on a party leader "raises broader questions on the state of democracy in Bulgaria."