SOFIA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - A 26-year-old Bulgarian was sentenced to prison on Wednesday for pointing a pistol at the head of a senior ethnic Turkish party member on stage at a party congress a year ago.
Ahmed Dogan, then leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party, part of Sofia's governing coalition, escaped unhurt when Oktay Enimehmedov, an ethnic Turk from the Black Sea town of Burgas, menaced him in January 2013.
Enimehmedov was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for the threat but acquitted of attempted murder. Prosecutors said they would appeal against the verdict.
The defendant had pleaded not guilty. An investigation in 1997 outed Dogan as a former member of Bulgaria's communist era secret police. Enimehmedov told the court he believed former secret police agents should not have positions of power today.
His lawyers argued he had only tried to scare Dogan, who had led the MRF for 23 years before stepping down last year.
"Enimehmedov made three attempts to fire a shot," prosecutor Ilian Tochev said. "His goal was to kill Dogan."
The liberal MRF, a junior partner in the Socialist-led government, represents ethnic Turks and other Muslims who make up about 12 percent of the population of 7.3 million in the Balkan state, which entered the European Union in 2007. At present, Dogan is its honorary chairman.
Dogan never denied an investigative commission's finding in 1997 that had served as an agent of the old Darzhavna Sigurnost secret police, but has also stressed his record of anti-communist activities.
He was jailed in 1987 for setting up an anti-communist organisation that fought the forced assimilation of ethnic Turks, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 1989. He was freed after the communist regime fell at the end of that year.
Many Bulgarians are frustrated with the political elite, believing they are involved in links with shady businessmen that date back to the communist era. Analysts say these links are among the reasons for Bulgaria's failure to effectively combat corruption and organised crime. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Matthias Williams and Mark Heinrich)