Convicted terrorist a no-show at hearing

EXCLUSIVE: SYDNEY man John Zahariev has failed to show up at a court hearing scheduled to consider whether to give him parole from prison in Bulgaria.

Zahariev, 22, has served half of a four-year jail term he received after being convicted of training as a terrorist with the intention of carrying out a terrorism act.

The former Sydney private schoolboy was arrested in September 2016 and convicted in June 2017 in Bulgaria in eastern Europe.

John Zahariev accused Bulgaria of putting him through a “show trial’’ which had failed to find evidence connecting him to Islamic State.
John Zahariev accused Bulgaria of putting him through a “show trial’’ which had failed to find evidence connecting him to Islamic State.

As he has now served two years, the Sofia City Court on Wednesday listed an appearance for him to apply for parole.

However, he failed to appear in court, and instead submitted to the court that he did not wish to be considered for early release at this time.

He will have other opportunities in the future to seek parole.

A former Catholic schoolboy who attended Waverley College in Sydney's affluent eastern suburbs but later converted to Islam, he was arrested by Bulgarian authorities after travelling to the capital Sofia, and visiting several shooting ranges in Sofia and another city, Plovdiv, where he used guns including a Kalashnikov.

John Zahariev has denied he is a terrorist.
John Zahariev has denied he is a terrorist.

He had urged the court not to hand down the maximum eight-year jail term, and strongly denied he was a terrorist.

In June, he had said he intended to appeal his conviction, and accused Bulgaria of putting him through a "show trial'' which had failed to find evidence connecting him to Islamic State.

His arrest two years ago came after a tip-off from Australian authorities. He was captured at the Sofia home of his elderly father, who has since died, and a number of books were seized from the apartment.

"I went shooting five times and this country claims to be a democracy so what's wrong if I am in possession of a few religious books?" he asked back in June

.Zahariev had told his trial that he had been set up by a police provocateur. His supporters said he had been snared in a "honey-trap" set by glamorous blonde shooter Kristina Georgieva, who accompanied him on one of his trips.

He had admitted travelling to Syria in 2013 but said it was for humanitarian reasons and he was supporting the secular Free Syrian Army opposition.

He had also told the court that while he converted to Islam, he later renounced it, criticised extremism and he offered to help ASIO and the security agencies, saying he had valuable information.