An Australian private school boy jailed in Bulgaria for training to become a terrorist has failed to show up at his parole hearing.
John ‘Ivan’ Zahariev, 22, was arrested in Bulgaria in September 2016 and accused of training as a jihadi with the intention of committing an act of terrorism. He was convicted in June 2017 and has served two years of his four-year sentence.
Zahariev is now eligible for parole but he failed to show up at Sofia City Court yesterday, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Despite previously protesting his innocence, he told the court that he did not wish to be considered for early release at this time.
Zahariev did not explain his reasoning to the court but will have future opportunities to seek parole. A dual Australian-Bulgarian citizen, Zahariev had a Christian upbringing in Australia but later converted to Islam.
Sofia’s Special Criminal Court accused Zahariev of training at shooting ranges in Bulgaria with the intention of going to Syria to join jihadi groups.
Zahariev denied the charges. After the verdict, he said he had been subjected to a ‘show trial’ and that no evidence connected him to the Islamic State group. At the time, Zahariev said he would discuss with his lawyer whether it was worth appealing the verdict.
He was arrested in Sofia, Bulgaria at the home of his father, who has since died, following a tip-off from Australian authorities.
A number of books were seized from the apartment but Zahariev previously told Nine News that he was not a terrorist.
‘What kind of terrorist am I? When they raided my apartment they found nothing, just religious material which even a previous expert said is actually normal religious material,’ he said.
During his trial he admitted to travelling to Syria in 2013, but said it was for humanitarian reasons as he was there to support the Free Syrian Army opposition.
He had appealed for assistance from the Australian government and hoped to serve his sentence in Australia. Zahariev had previously attended Waverley College in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.