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Bulgaria expels three Hamas lawmakers


Three Hamas lawmakers were expelled from Bulgaria on Friday, based on claims that they represented "a serious threat to national security."

Gaza’s Hamas-led government condemned the expulsion of the deputies, accusing Bulgaria of “bowing to Zionist pressure.”

"Due to the strong pressure by Bulgarian authorities, the three lawmakers decided to leave in order to spare the country an escalation of tensions," Bulgarian Center for Global and Middle East Studies Director Mohammed Abu Assi said, adding that a conference in which they were to take part was called off after the visit was cut through.

Assi stated that “members of the Bulgarian security services entered Friday morning to the deputies’ hotel rooms and took them to the airport. They left Sofia and headed to Istanbul.”

Abu Assi added that the deputies received a written order from the National Security Agency to leave Bulgaria immediately, adding that the security agents “made ​​it clear to them that they had to leave because of the strong political pressure exercised by Israel on Bulgaria.”

Assi said he had invited the three Palestinians to show that Bulgaria "is not a completely pro-Israeli country."

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told channel TV 7 that the deputies left Bulgaria, saying they had entered Bulgaria with regular visas "issued, however, on different motives from what they have demonstrated here."

Hours later, Bulgaria's State Agency for National Security issued a statement saying that "the four Palestinians expelled from Bulgaria posed a serious threat for national security."

The agency did not explain who the fourth Palestinian was. It said that it acted on an article in the legislation that allows for foreign nationals to be expelled if they are a threat to public order or national security. It added that this was not a sanction, but rather a "preventive measure."

The three deputies had arrived to Sofia in January carrying visas for a month at the invitation of the Middle East Studies Center to participate in a conference on the Middle East in the Bulgarian capital. The visit was supposed to end on February 18.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma’an, AP)

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