SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria intends to put suspects in a bus bombing that killed five Israelis on trial early next year, even if they have to be judged in absentia, the country's chief prosecutor said on Thursday.
Bulgarian authorities have named two men of Lebanese origin as suspects and said it believed the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah was behind the July 2012 bombing that targeted Israeli holidaymakers. But Sofia has not revealed all its evidence and Hezbollah denies any involvement.
The EU agreed on July 22 to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on its terrorism blacklist over concerns it was involved in the bombing at the airport of the Black Sea city of Burgas.
"Our intention is to go to court. An indictment should be prepared in the near future, in the first three months of next year when we have collected explicit data for the guilty persons," Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov told reporters.
The Balkan country has identified the suspects as 32-year-old Meliad Farah, also known as Hussein Hussein, an Australian citizen, and 25-year-old Hassan El Hajj Hassan, a Canadian citizen, both of Lebanese origin.
Bulgarian authorities have alleged that Farah and Hassan provided the explosive device and logistical support, while a third man was the actual bomber and died in the explosion.
Tsatsarov said prosecutors had established the identity and whereabouts of at least two suspects and planned to seek their extradition to Bulgaria. He declined to name the country the suspects were in.
Earlier this year, a senior interior ministry official said the two suspected accomplices were spotted in Lebanon after the airport attack.
Tsatsarov said the trial would be held whether or not the suspects were handed over to Bulgarian authorities.
"We need to send a crystal clear signal that such terrorism meets zero tolerance in Bulgaria. If we cannot bring them to court in person, we will charge them in absence but we will send a clear signal that such investigations in Bulgaria end with a verdict," Tsatsarov said.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Mark Heinrich)