Bulgaria aims to start Burgas bombing trial by April: prosecutor

SOFIA - Bulgaria aims to open a trial by April for a bomb attack that killed five Israeli tourists at an airport last year, the chief prosecutor said Thursday.

"Our ambition is to go to court... by the end of the first three months of next year at the maximum," Sotir Tsatsarov told journalists.

An unidentified bomber blew himself up near an Israeli-packed tourist bus at the airport in Burgas, a popular Black Sea destination, on July 18, 2012, killing five tourists, their Bulgarian driver and himself.

Six months into the investigation, Bulgaria said the bomber had been helped by two Lebanese-born Australian and Canadian passport holders with links to the military wing of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Bulgaria later identified the accomplices as Australian national Meliad Farah, 32, also known as Hussein Hussein, and Canadian Hassan El Hajj Hassan, 25.

Tsatsarov said investigators know the current whereabouts of the two suspects, who are no longer residing in Australia and Canada, but have not yet demanded their extradition.

"If these persons are turned over to the Bulgarian authorities, they will be brought to court. If not, they will face a trial in absentia," he said.

"Bear in mind that we will not put an organisation on trial, but concrete persons, as is normal in a criminal procedure," he added.

The attack was the deadliest against Israeli nationals abroad since 2004 and the first in a European Union member state.

The revelation of Hezbollah's involvement contributed to an EU-wide decision in July to blacklist the armed wing of the Shiite organisation as a terror group.