There were reports of abuses of religious freedom.
Many Muslim leaders continued to complain of harassment from the security services, alleging that the national security services brought in imams and muftis repeatedly for questioning as a form of intimidation.
On September 18, Pazardjik District Court launched a trial against 13 Muslim leaders. The defendants were charged in 2011 with participating in an illegal organization, spreading anti-democratic, pro-Sharia ideology aimed at undermining the rule of law and basic human rights, and preaching intolerance and hatred of other religious groups during Friday sermons. Several witnesses stated at the trial that they had given testimony under duress. One witness said that the security services threatened him and his family. The chief mufti’s office continued to maintain the innocence of the defendants and labeled the proceedings an attack on religious freedom. At year’s end, the trial was still ongoing.
Some marginal political parties reportedly exploited religious problems for political purposes. For example, extreme nationalist parties Internal Revolutionary Macedonian Organization (VMRO), Ataka, and National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria protested in front of the court house in Pazardjik against the wearing of religious attire and the spread of Islam. The ultranationalist party Ataka continued to protest mosques using loudspeakers for the call to prayer. In October the party also called for a ban on the construction of mosques in the country.
In May a student complained to the Commission for Protection against Discrimination because she was banned from attending school unless she stopped wearing a headscarf. The commission heard the case in November and its decision was pending at the end of the year.
Some minority religious groups, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, continued to face discrimination and prejudice from local authorities in certain municipalities, despite obtaining national registration from the Sofia city court. Contrary to the law, the municipalities claimed that the groups had to register locally.
Contrary to the law, some municipalities, such as Burgas and Petrich, restricted certain forms of proselytizing, such as door-to-door, and prohibited the distribution of religious literature, even by groups that were registered locally. The Directorate for Religious Affairs stated both local governments and uniformed police were largely unaware that these activities were legal and needed training.
The statute of limitation for restitution cases was set to expire in 2013, but a number of major claims remained outstanding. The chief mufti recently asked the president to help him extend the deadline for complex Muslim property cases.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslim communities reported problems obtaining construction permits for new prayer houses and mosques. The local government in Blagoevgrad continued to ignore the Muslim community’s long-standing application for a permit to renovate its mosque. The Varna municipality continued to obstruct the building of a Jehovah’s Witnesses house of worship. The Sofia municipal government continued to withhold permission for building a second mosque in Sofia, even though the existing one was so small that worshippers had to pray outside on the sidewalk during Friday and holiday prayers.
The state budget allocated 3 million levs ($2.02 million) for registered religious groups. Of the total, 2.3 million levs ($1.55 million) were allocated for the BOC, 180,000 levs ($121,294) for the Muslim community, 40,000 levs ($26,954) for the Armenian Apostolic Church, 30,000 levs ($20,216) for the Jewish community, and 40,000 levs ($26,954) for other registered denominations.