The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Saturday, condemning a failed armed attack on Ahmed Dogan, a Bulgarian politician of Turkish ethnicity and the leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (HÖH) -- a political party in Bulgaria that represents the country's ethnic Turks, at the eighth congress of the party in Sofia earlier in the day Today`s Zaman reported.
The statement also noted that Turkey places emphasis on good relations with "neighbor, friend and partner" Bulgaria, adding that Ankara hopes the bilateral ties, characterized by solid cooperation projects, will make a special contribution to the prosperity and well-being of the two nations.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul also sent a message to Dogan, expressing his sadness over the incident
Doğan is the leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (HÖH) and was attacked by an assailant during his party's televised conference on Saturday when a man jumped on the stage and pointed a gun at him. He escaped unscathed.
Television footage showed the man jumping out of the audience and interrupting a speech by 58-year-old Doğan, who has led the party for almost a quarter of a century. Security guards were seen beating and kicking the attacker. "Ahmed Doğan is in good health. Everything is under control," HÖH official Ceyhan Ibryamov told journalists.
During his speech, Dogan was expected to announce that he was leaving his post and to lend support for HÖH Deputy Chairman Lutfi Mestan. Mestan strongly condemned the incident and said, "Democracy is under threat in Bulgaria." "No matter who staged this attack, the motive behind it is hateful statements against our party. Thank God this attempt was unsuccessful, but we would like to once again underline that democracy is under threat in Bulgaria. Some circles are trying to demonize Doğan and our party," Mestan said in initial comments.
Dogan and his party have been a constant target of almost all right-wing parties, from center-right to those deemed racist. The liberal HÖH party represents ethnic Turks and other Muslims, who make up about 12 percent of Bulgaria's 7.3 million-strong population.
Doğan is seen as one of the Balkan country's most influential political figures. The HÖH was a junior partner in the previous Socialist-led cabinet.
Eyewitnesses said the assailant was about to point the gun at Doğan's head when he was captured by the guards. Police said they had arrested a 25-year-old man from the Black Sea town of Burgas who was also carrying two knives. The attacker was identified as Oktay Hasanov Yenimehmedov. It was not immediately clear why he targeted Doğan at the party congress in downtown Sofia.
Lack of security measures have been blamed for the incident. Party members in the congress complained that the attacker was not stopped before approaching Doğan. Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Tekirdağ deputy Bulent Belen, who also attended the congress to represent his party, said they witnessed a "security scandal."
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıcdaroglu condemned the incident in a statement he released on Saturday. "We strongly condemn every kind of tyranny, violence and fascist pressure on democracy," he said, adding that "politicians cannot be stopped by guns" in democracies.
CHP Deputy Chairman Faik Oztrak and representatives from the European Parliament were also present at the congress, which was attended by some 1,500 party members.