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The colleagues of a Bulgarian on trial in Rome for conspiring in

May 27, 1985

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ The colleagues of a Bulgarian on trial in Rome for conspiring in the shooting of Pope John Paul II staged a protest in Sofia on Monday as the trial began, a news agency reported.

″Hundreds of Sergei Antonov’s colleagues protested against the outrageous and groundless charges preferred against him and expressed their firm belief in his innocence,″ the official news agency BTA reported from Sofia.

The protest was staged at Sofia Airport an hour before the beginning of the Rome trial, the report said. Antonov is an employee of the Bulgarian national airline, Balkanair.

It quoted Alexander Gabrovski, president of the Balkanair Trade Union Board, as saying that ″No one on the Balkanair staff can even imagine or admit, let alone believe that Sergei Antonov has anything to do with any terrorist action whatsoever.″

He said his organization would be following the trial closely ″because the bitter experience of the last two years and a half prompts that a judicial mob law cannot be ruled out in this trial,″ the report said. Antonov was arrested in November 1982.

Antonov is one of three Bulgarians accused in the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt, and is the only one present at the trial. The two others, both former officials at Bulgaria’s embassy in Rome, are in Bulgaria but are being tried in absentia by the Italian court. Bulgaria, through its official spokesmen and news media, has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the affair.

BTA said the participants in the rally sent a protest telegram to Italian President Sandro Pertini. The exact number of demonstrators was not reported.

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