WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) in a bipartisan letter to Bulgarian Ambassador Tihomir Stoytchev expressing appreciation for Bulgaria’s recent sentencing in absentia of Hezbollah operatives responsible for the 2012 bombing of an Israeli tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria. The letter also encourages Bulgaria to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist entity in its entirety. 

“The time is right for concrete actions from our European allies to hold Hezbollah accountable,” the Senators wrote. “The Burgas attacks convinced the European Union in 2013 to designate the so-called “military wing” of Hezbollah, but not its “political wing,” as a terrorist organization. Hezbollah’s political leadership does not itself recognize this division. In designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group, Bulgaria would reject this false distinction and set a bold example for the rest of the European Union to follow.

“Hezbollah remains a clear and present danger to Europe and the United States. The verdict in the Burgas case is an important first step, but if our countries are to truly hold Hezbollah accountable for its crimes and thwart future terrorist attacks in Bulgaria and throughout Europe, further action against Hezbollah by Bulgaria and other European Union countries is necessary,” continued the Senators.

BACKGROUND: In June, Senator Rosen joined Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Representatives Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) in leading a bipartisan and bicameral group of over two dozen Members of Congress urging European Union member states to designate the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below: 

Dear Ambassador Stoytchev,

We write to you with deep appreciation for your work to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the United States and Bulgaria.

We were pleased to see Bulgaria’s September 21 sentencing in absentia of two Hezbollah-backed operatives, Meliad Farah and Hassan El Hajj Hassan, to life in prison for their participation in the deadly 2012 Burgas bus bombing. The attack killed the Bulgarian driver and five Israeli tourists and left dozens of Bulgarians and Israelis injured.

While the verdict is encouraging, Bulgaria now has the opportunity to take another step towards justice by designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety. Your government’s investigation has already established that Hezbollah provided logistical and financial backing for the Burgas attack. In addition to its direct culpability for a terrorist attack on Bulgarian soil, Hezbollah’s international terrorist activity is well documented and ongoing. The Burgas attack occurred on the anniversary of Hezbollah’s 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Argentina, which killed 85 people. In 2015, authorities seized tons of ammonium nitrate, suspected for use in future attacks, from Hezbollah operatives in the United Kingdom and Cyprus. German officials recently confirmed a similar seizure in Germany.

The time is right for concrete actions from our European allies to hold Hezbollah accountable. The Burgas attacks convinced the European Union in 2013 to designate the so-called “military wing” of Hezbollah, but not its “political wing,” as a terrorist organization. Hezbollah’s political leadership does not itself recognize this division. In designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group, Bulgaria would reject this false distinction and set a bold example for the rest of the European Union to follow.

We ask that Bulgaria quickly take up this matter. Bulgaria’s Council of Ministers possesses the mechanisms to sanction and designate Hezbollah by adding it to a list subject to the Measures Against the Financing of Terrorism Act. While your government added Farah and Hassan to this list in 2016, it has yet to list Hezbollah itself.

We also urge your government to work with Interpol and international partners to apprehend Farah and Hassan, who remain at large, so that these convicted individuals may serve their sentences and the victims’ families may attempt to collect the awarded compensation.

Hezbollah remains a clear and present danger to Europe and the United States. The verdict in the Burgas case is an important first step, but if our countries are to truly hold Hezbollah accountable for its crimes and thwart future terrorist attacks in Bulgaria and throughout Europe, further action against Hezbollah by Bulgaria and other European Union countries is necessary.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

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