Canadian citizen convicted in absentia in deadly Bulgaria bus bombing

A Bulgarian court sentenced two men of Lebanese origin for life on Monday over a 2012 bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver, an act Bulgarian authorities have blamed on Lebanese Shia Muslim group Hezbollah.

The Specialized Criminal Court found Meliad Farah, 39, an Australian citizen, and Hassan El Hajj Hassan, 32, a Canadian citizen, guilty of being accomplices and ordered them to pay compensation to families of the victims and the injured.

They are not entitled to parole.

The two men were tried in absentia over the July 18, 2012, attack at Burgas airport on the Black Sea, and their whereabouts are not known. The men are subject to an Interpol notice for their arrest.

A third man, of dual Lebanese-French citizenship, was killed in the attack when he blew up a bomb in a backpack he was carrying close to a bus at the airport.

Hezbollah has denied involvement in the attack, which also injured more than 35 Israeli tourists.

After Hassan was linked to the attack, Ottawa said he was born outside of the country, grew up in in the Vancouver area and later left Canada at an unspecified time.

Used ammonium nitrate

A five-member panel ruled that the two men had helped in the attack, which was aimed at causing confusion and fear among the people of Bulgaria and Israel. The verdict can be appealed within 15 days.

A red notice, which calls on authorities to arrest a wanted person, has been issued by Interpol for Farah and Hassan.

“The court’s sentence reflects the punishment we asked for and is adequate to the committed crimes. Whether it will be served or not will be a result of the search of the wanted persons, which is ongoing,” prosecutor Evgeniya Shtarkelova told reporters.

The judge made no mention on Monday of Hezbollah, but the prosecutor’s office said in a statement that evidence “showed that the two defendants … had links to the radical wing of Shia group Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah is designated a terrorist organization by Canada and the U.S. The European Union put the armed wing of Hezbollah on its terrorism blacklist after the Burgas attack.

Shtarkelova has said the men had used fake driver’s licences printed in Lebanon, that the attackers had family links to Hezbollah and that the use of ammonium nitrate, an industrial chemical used in fertilizer, in the bomb pointed to the group.

Chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev said last month evidence also showed Hezbollah provided financial and logistical backing for the attack. 

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