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Bulgarian imam jailed for Islamic State support

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Sofia (AFP)

A Bulgarian imam was jailed for eight and a half years on Tuesday for spreading the ideas of the Islamic State group and propagating hatred and war on religious grounds.

The regional court in the southern city of Pazardzhik also handed down lesser sentences to 13 followers of imam Ahmed Moussa Ahmed, who hails from Bulgaria's minority Roma group.

He was found guilty of preaching the ideas of IS and for helping would-be jihadists passing through Bulgaria on their way to fight in Syria, the court said.

In his preachings in the Pazardzhik mosque, Moussa had also incited hatred and urged his followers to wage war on religious grounds, it added.

Thirteen of Moussa's followers -- 12 men and one woman -- were also found guilty of spreading hatred on religious grounds and propagating war.

The men were jailed for periods ranging from one year to three and a half years and the woman was handed a suspended sentence of two and a half years.

Moussa had already been convicted over his radical preaching and is currently serving a four-year jail sentence.

Bulgaria is a majority Orthodox country with a 13 percent Muslim population, including ethnic Turks and Pomaks together with recently converted Muslim Roma.

The country's official Muslim leader, the chief mufti, has distanced himself from Moussa and his followers.

The sentences are subject to appeal.